Remember how the US railroad business thought they were in the railroad business and didn’t realize they were in the transportation business? They still haven’t recovered. Banks, especially community banks, certainly realize they are no longer in the bank transaction business. So what business are they in? Oh, the possibilities!
What is definitely in demise is the use of branches for traditional transactional banking. To say that this is all banks can do in a branch is a sad prejudice against a business with centuries of experience and hundreds of thousands of employees.
Let’s do an inventory of what banks have in their branch networks to work with:
- Locations. Branches are located in the center of cities and towns across the nation. If the school of branch demise assumes that the entire mainstreet business community will collapse as everyone digs into their sofas to surf the net, then okay. But until that happens, branches are sitting pretty, many in areas that are becoming more vibrant, not less. 100 years from now, if you don’t think people will gather and do things in city and town centers, then you are missing a fundamental feature of human behavior.
- Connections. Banks have a direct link to businesses, families, and individuals. In fact, banks have not unwrapped this prize – their communications are one to one, with little efforts to amplify C2C, C2B, or B2B relationships. Now would be a great time. Think of the businesses that had nothing BUT relationships, and then decided to mine them. Facebook was initially designed to check out girls at Harvard. But when Zuckerberg saw how many people joined the fun, he created a business around the network, not around girl watching.
- On the ground people. Sure, businesses may not need as many people on the ground these days, but how opportune to think there are already good people, well trained, finance oriented employees who actually live in the area, ready for new direction.
Can you imagine? Think of how an entrepreneur would look at this – you’re asked to start a company, and are given an infrastructure, a customer base, and the people to run it. Anyone who has started a business knows that the idea is only a small part of a new business because these very obstacles have to be overcome. Not banks. It’s all there, wrapped in a bow, waiting to be opened. All they need is the idea.
What could they do? This is the question bank boards, managers, staff, and stockholders should be asking, and hopefully (and probably) are. If ideas are slow to come, here are a few to start the juices flowing:
- Entrepreneur center.
- Specific industry, special services center.
- Mainstreet Retail Shop Center, including help from startup, through customer acquisition, to efficiency, and to sellout.
- International Trade center for small business.
- Center for financial studies around local growth.
- Center for web based businesses.
- Center for women in business.
- Center for senior financial independence.
- Center for Buy Local and Community Vibrancy.
- Center for financial competency for youth.
- Center for Immigrant Run Businesses.
- Center for leadership excellence.
Oh – and no one said a branch has to do just one thing …
Photo Credit © Can Stock Photo Inc. / andreykuzmin