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Banks rethinking their branch concept

BANKS here are rethinking the branch concept as they seek to grow their business. They are seeking to create more conversations with their customers as they find that clients who have a multi-product relationship are more loyal and satisfied.

As part of their Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG) study, the Institute of Service Excellence's researchers also looked more closely at the banks sub-sector's customers within the larger finance and insurance sector. As one of the study's criteria, all of these customers had to have at least a current or savings banking account.

The institute said that further analysis showed that customers with more than just this banking account - whether it's a credit card, investment product, or both - had a higher level of satisfaction for their bank, as compared with customers with only a banking account.

"In the past five years, many banks have reimagined the traditional savings or checking accounts, by rewarding their customers with better interest rates and benefits when combined with their other product offerings, such as credit cards and investment products. This finding suggests customers are appreciating the value of deeper relationships their banks are building with them," said Neeta Lachmandas, ISE executive director.

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When contacted, Maybank's head of Community Financial Services Singapore and head of Group Wealth Management, Alvin Lee, said: "Branches will be repositioned and reinvented in the new era. They are evolving from a space for transactions and financial consultation to one that serves the objective of deepening social interaction.

"Looking at MSpace at Maybank that we opened in November 2018, it broke away from a traditional bank branch model to include a café lounge and an in-branch app tablet is made available on every café table for patrons to browse its content or take a queue number. This concept branch aims to give our customers a new and refreshing banking experience. We would like the branch to appeal to customers, especially the younger generation, so that they are engaged at a deeper level."

Meanwhile, OCBC Bank said that as it is focused on providing better solutions, it continually innovates to benefit customers. "More than 70 per cent of our digitally active customers bank on their mobile devices, and we continually innovate to cater to their digital needs and demands," said Dennis Tan, head of Consumer Financial Services Singapore, OCBC Bank.

In popular branches the bank has a digital concierge to help customers and it has deployed digital ambassadors to its branches to assist customers with using the new ATMs and digital service kiosks that can process 90 per cent of all over the counter branch services.

"We provide customers with a suite of digital services to make banking seamless and frictionless for their convenience. It is about doing what is right for our customers and consistently delivering quality products and services to meet their needs," Mr Tan added.

At DBS when it introduced the "café and branch" concept in its DBS Plaza Singapura branch in 2017, it was the first of its kind. "Featuring a lifestyle space with an open layout, we wanted to create a casual space that encourages open conversations and engagement," revealed Jeremy Soo, managing director and head, Consumer Banking Group Singapore.

The branch also provides services that can be accessed past banking hours. "For instance, our video teller machines (VTMs) are able to instantly replace debit cards, take instructions for passbook replacements round-the-clock, as well as offer face-to-face assistance from our customer service officers via live video streaming from 8.30 am to midnight," Mr Soo added.