Rise of the machines: bank customers shun staff for mobile phones


Tim Wallace

July 28, 2015

Bank customers prefer to use their mobiles, and even when they do visit a branch, they tend to use self-service machines

Bank customers are choosing to use machines in bank branches rather than talk to staff, according to Halifax, in the latest sign that traditional banking is dead .

Most people’s interactions with their bank are via mobile phone apps, but even when customers go to branches, they tend to use technology. Half of visits to branches include the use of a self-service machine to pay in cash or cheques, rather than using other services either on offer from the cashiers behind the till, or speaking to staff for more detailed financial advice or more complex products such as mortgages.

Customers already use their mobile apps and online accounts more regularly than they use branches, and those interactions are rising at a startling pace. Halifax said it had 69m interactions with customers in June alone – averaging 2.3m per day – a rise of 47pc on the same month of 2014.

Of those interactions, 57.2pc came through the mobile app, as customers use their smartphones to check their balances or make payments on the move, while 29.4pc were computer-based online logins. Only 10.3pc were branch visits by customers, and just 3pc called the bank on the phone.

As a result, staff are no longer busy with basic transactions, and banks hope to use branches and their workers’ time for more complicated transactions and financial services.

Halifax’s digital director, Nick Williams, said this means banks must adapt to suit their customers.

“The future of banking means continuing to deliver great service across all channels, enabling our customers to bank where they want, how they want and when they want,” Mr Williams said. “A growing number of customers want the best of both worlds – the convenience of banking on the move, alongside a helping hand from their local branch when they need it.”

Customers’ changes in behaviour are happening across the industry.

Last month the British Bankers’ Association revealed that mobile banking overtook online banking for the first time in March, with 10.5m mobile logins every day of that month versus 9.6m computer-based interactions.

One result is that more bank branches are closing down – almost 2,000 have shut in the past five years, taking the total below 10,000. New banks, such as Atom and Starling, hope to launch soon as digital-only banks with no branches at all.

This trend is also affecting the way branches are designed.

Nationwide Building Society is investing £500m in branch refurbishments, removing the screens between customers and cashiers, and bringing more tablet computers into branches so staff can move more freely around the high street sites.

Barclays and NatWest have also brought more technology into branches.

Barclays already allows customers to pay in a cheque via their mobile app, taking a photo of the document rather than going to a branch.

It is currently only available on a pilot basis for customers paying a Barclays cheque into a Barclays account. But other banks are also working on the technology, and hope to have an industry-wide system in place by July 2016. Lloyds is also testing a similar system this summer.

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This article was written by Tim Wallace from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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