Accenture Banking Blog

It is true that, as more sales and servicing activities go digital, there is a reduction in work done in the branch network.  That makes branches less economical on a standalone basis. Digital transactions are projected to keep rising while cash transactions decrease. Restructuring programs designed to reduce costs are cutting back on the number of branches.  New FinTech entrants are putting pressure on banks with digital-only propositions challenging existing customer service models.

But that’s only part of the story.  We think that “branches” are going to remain part of the future for banks and their customers.  That’s because customers of all kinds share a desire for greater personalization, including a “human touch” at key financial moments in their lives.

Of course, the human experience should be blended with digital speed and convenience.  Our research, for example, shows that 49 percent of customers globally want instant access to face-to-face advice via a mobile device1.

There is also growing evidence that the branch network has a positive impact on customers’ behavior and buying decisions.   The physical presence creates a “halo effect” supporting acquisition activities, even among digital-only customers.  They get the reassurance that, even if all else fails, “I can always go to the branch.”  There are even signs that highly digitally-engaged customers use branch-based services more often.

The growing influence of retail on banking

The retail industry has a strong and growing influence on banking.  In recent Accenture research, 78% of retail customers globally cited the ability to touch, feel and try products as a top reason to shop in-store. And 32% of European customers said they choose physical stores over online for the ability to speak to a sales associate2.

Customers love digital for routine transactions but want human contact when they need it.  Branches have a vital role as visible, tangible locations providing a personal, positive experience.  That means bank branch staff must be able to deliver excellent service and customized recommendations.   We see these trends pushing banks towards a new model for the physical branch.  The new branch will be there because it is needed to meet customers’ changing expectations, and to provide them with an experience they will come back for.

We call this model the “Experience Store” – smaller, more agile, borrowing freely from retail innovators.

In the next blog in this series, we’ll look at some of the attributes of the Experience Store.  In the meantime, read our report, “From Branches to Experience Centers”, to learn more about digital disruption in branch banking.



  1. “Beyond Digital: How Can Banks Meet Customer Demands?” Accenture 2016 Access at: us-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/next-gen-3/DandM-GlobalResearch-Study/Accenture-Banking-Global-DistributionMarketing-Consumer-Study.pdf 
  2. “Accenture Financial Services Consumer Pulse Survey” Accenture 2017. Access at: https://