Though online banking continues to gain in popularity, there are times when it may be necessary or preferable to visit your bank’s branch in person.
With the threat of COVID-19 shutting down businesses across the country, banking has not been immune. Numerous banks and credit unions, from some of the nation’s largest financial institutions to smaller community banks, in March began shifting to drive-through-only services for customers.
Now, with all 50 states in various stages of reopening, you may be wondering what branch banking will look like going forward. Even if you only rarely visit your bank’s branches—preferring instead to do your banking online, by phone or at ATMs—it’s helpful to know what you can expect as the coronavirus crisis moves through its next phases in the U.S.
How Banks Have Responded to COVID-19
Banks and credit unions are considered part of the “essential business” category, meaning that, despite shutdown orders, they were not required to close. But many financial institutions took the initiative to put measures in place to protect both customers and staff from coronavirus community spread. Those measures have included:
- Reducing hours at some branch locations
- Temporarily closing some branches
- Encouraging customers to use online and mobile banking
- Allowing lobby visits by appointment only
- Increasing sanitary measures in the branch and at the drive-through window
Some banks have taken the additional step of closing branches permanently. According to data from S&P Global Intelligence, 157 bank and thrift branches were closed in April 2020, while only 17 branches opened. Closing branches can be a cost-cutting measure for banks and credit unions, allowing them to streamline overhead expenses.
On the other hand, some banks are moving ahead with expansion plans to open new branches. That’s encouraging if you’re worried about branch banking disappearing altogether as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. And at least one survey shows that consumers still want branch banking access.
In a poll conducted by Boston Consulting Group, just 3% of Americans said they would stop using branch banking altogether in response to the coronavirus pandemic. By comparison, globally, 24% of banking customers said they would be less likely to visit a branch. With demand for branch banking continuing, banks and credit unions will have to rethink how they handle in-person visits from customers.
What the New Branch Banking Normal Could Look Like
How banks and credit unions decide to handle reopening can vary from one financial institution to the next. The American Bankers Association has created a reopening matrix to help guide banks in their decision-making. The matrix offers guidance on things like:
- When to begin reopening branches to customers