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Building a customer advisory bank

Reflecting on the debate about bank branches yesterday, a point did not
get discussed that is actually one of the most challenging.

I was given this challenge myself when, working with a
client who is launching a direct bank, they asked me this question: “we have to
on-board clients with proof of identity by seeing a passport”.

OK, says me, get them to text it in as picture from their

“No, that is not acceptable by law”, says the client.  “We have to physically see the passport.”

Oh, says I, then ask them to pop into one of your sister
bank’s branches to show the id.

“No”, says the client. “That defeats the whole point of
being a direct bank.”

Yes, this is true.

And this was at the heart of the debate about why banks need
branches, when the anti-branch brigade made the point that this infrastructure was
built in the last century and the only reason a customer visits a branch today is
due to our rules and regulations, one of which is all of this KYC and AML guff.

Thinking about both issues, I came up with a solution.

It stems from my early days in insurance.

No insurance firm has customer offices where you go visit.

Instead, they have direct sales forces who come to you.

So why not switch from a branch structure to a direct
customer advisor operation?

It would go something like this.

Customers handle all of the transactional needs via

Cash is all automated via ATM infrastructure.

So the only residual service is sales and advice.

This can also be automated, as raised in our debate.  Placing intelligent ads that are coentxtual
in both mobile and online data mines makes great sense.

But if the only residual need for human interaction
face-to-face is for sales and advice, then why not take the best banch advisory
people and give them a car, an iPad and an iPhone (or Android if you prefer) and
send them out on the road.

Whenever a customer clicks or touches ‘make an appointment’
on their online or mobile banking service, they can immediately see a schedule of
available times from the direct advisor group and, like booking an appointment
with the Genius Bar in the Apple store, you choose your time and location – their
office or yours or your home – and away you go.

Automated online appointment systems have been around for a long
time, although many banks still have not deployed such systems, and the biggest
gain here is that you would no longer need branches.

Or not as many anyway.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like it.

After all, why would I go to a branch to talk to a human via
an ATM that is video-eanbled when the truly focused customer advisory bank
would send their people to me?

This is what the business side of the bank does btw.

If I’m an SME, I am given my very own client manager who
calls me once a year and visits to give my business a health check.

Would the bank do this for their mass market?

No, because it’s too expensive.

Would the bank do this for the mass market if they could eradicate
their branch overheads overnight?

It’s worth thinking about as you make two gains overnight:
cost reduction and customer centricity.

Now that’s what I call building a customer advisory bank.


The is part four of a five-part series:

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  1. Chris,
    so simple, it’s genius. Banks also take mobile phone numbers off you these days as alternate ways to contact their customers. Perhaps they should also think about using Skype or similar when the presence of a representative is not mandatory. Increasing numbers of customers are automating their domestic situation and it can’t be too difficult to manage a gradual migration can it?

  2. Hi,
    think you are right. Thought about that several times before and discussed it with my customers. But up to know they don´t understand that banking is peoples business and not branch business. And by the way they can rent their branches to coffee shops or apple and use it for meetings with their customers if they want that.

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