Return to Branches: What, When, and Where to Optimize Market Opportunity

Mary Lou JosephFebruary 9, 2022

As we come out of the dramatic branch closures and shift to digital channels caused by the pandemic, banks are asking themselves: Where do I need branches, and when should they be kept open?

Now some might be skeptical about the need for a bank branch, but they should think otherwise. Convenience of a local branch is still a top driver of why people choose a specific bank. According to a 2019 study by Market Street Research, for all age brackets the Top 4 factors in choosing a new financial institution were:

  1. Fees
  2. Convenient branches
  3. ATM network
  4. Deposit interest rates.1

Convenience really has two components: distance and access or availability. How far away from me is a branch, and is that branch open when I need it to be? The pandemic and return to opened branches present banks and credit unions with a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebalance their branch network—ensuring they have the right coverage to grow sales and revenue.

But how are they going about this? How do you determine which branches should be opened on what days and hours to attract customers and grow business?

Verint branch workforce management experts have recently partnered with several banks to assess their branch network with our Branch Open Hours Optimization consulting service. You’ll be surprised to learn just how many different “standard” hours configurations these banks have had across their network.

Mid-sized to large banks have had as many as 75 different configurations! This not only creates confusion for customers—it’s also an administrative nightmare when you factor in changes to signage, staffing, building access, and more.

Branch Open Hours Optimization

The objective for conducting an Open Hours Optimization study can vary, but most banks seek to:

  • Establish a standard set of branch hour configurations for easier management and greater consistency to customers
  • Maximize opportunity in higher volume branches and markets with greater sales and growth potential
  • Improve efficiencies in lower-volume branches and lower opportunity markets
  • Determine the best set of hours for optimal customer acquisition and retention
  • Set better hours and protocols for weekend hours
  • Remain competitive in key markets.

The analysis looks at several key factors and incorporates both the organization’s overall macro-strategy, using market factors and competitor data, as well as the micro-level strategy for each branch based upon local constraints, business rules, and the degree of change in hours from the current state to the optimal state.

Assessing Branch Performance

Branch performance is also a key component of our Open Hours Optimization assessments. Once we capture all the current branch hours configurations, we then group branches based on specific demographic and performance attributes of their markets. We then assess the hours configurations for the successful and underperforming branches in each grouping, the distance between the bank’s and competitor’s branches, location of ATMs, and several other factors to develop recommendations for the most optimal hours of operation.

Incorporating Service Strategy

Open Hours Optimization also takes into consideration a bank’s service strategy regarding the use of drive-up windows and policies for minimum hours of operation.

The COVID pandemic greatly influenced customer behavior when it came to drive-up window utilization. Many banks reassessed their strategy around this service, making decisions to keep drive up windows open and/or change drive-up hours to align to or extend beyond lobby hours.

Banks also revisited their service strategy for minimum daily or weekly operating hours that may vary based upon the branch type, such as traditional versus in-store locations, and/or specific days of the week, such as Saturdays or Sundays.

Some banks have deployed minimum weekly hours, but then created “shift”-like configurations for densely populated areas. For example, an area with a lot of coffee shops where customers stop before business hours might open at 8 a.m., but close at 4 p.m. And in another area where there are many restaurants and bars and customers tend to work late, the branch might be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Benefits of Optimizing Branch Hours

As mentioned above, mid- to large-sized banks can have as many as 75 or more hours configurations across their branch network. After an Open Hours Optimization assessment, banks typically narrow down their standard configurations to 10 to 15, which cover 90 percent or more of their branches. These changes have enabled banks to:

  • Streamline their internal processes for updating branch operating hours
  • Have greater flexibility in staffing branch locations and sharing resources
  • Increase their presence and competitiveness in key markets
  • Improve sales and revenue growth in high-opportunity locations
  • Reduce operational expenses in lower-opportunity locations and reallocate staff.

Additionally, banks are able to achieve a short project payback period and realize a significant ROI. One large regional bank was able to achieve a 600% ROI in less than two years by consolidating standard hours, reducing drive-up window hours (while still remaining competitive), and extending hours in select markets with greater revenue growth opportunities.

Want to learn more about Open Hours Optimization? Contact us at [email protected] with the subject line of “Branch Open Hours Optimization.” To learn more about Verint Workforce Management for Branch solutions, visit www.verint.com/branch.

1 “The 4 Things That Matter Most to Consumers Selecting a New Bank,” by Mark Gibson and Stephanie Gonthier, The Financial Brand, January 8, 2020