Here at brandmanagement we are always interested in the latest bank trends from around the world – the ridiculously slow service in China to the new and interesting practices arriving in Australia and into the United Kingdom.

In the UK there is a growing trend for banks having ‘navigators’ stationed in the foyer of branches to greet each person as they enter and help direct the flow of customers by pointing them to the relevant part of the bank.

What the branch navigator is essentially doing is pre-qualifying everyone who walks into the branch and efficiently apportioning the labour of the people working in the branch – all designed to limit the amount of time that customers spend actually interfacing with staff in the bank.

The above image was taken by a CoreData staffer last week and features a Nat West branch in London and shows a female placed at the front of the branch in a suit and wearing a headset attached to a telephone.

The Nat West employee asks customers their business as they enter and tells them what they need to do and where they need to go to in order to do what ever it is they are there for.

In some banks when the queue stretches beyond a few people another employee magically appears to assist and direct traffic around the branch so that people are given the impression that they are having to queue twice – to be honest this seemed to be a highly efficient process.

Elsewhere, the trend in Australia and the US – has been for banks transforming into more comfortable facilities with many opening coffee shop style branches, brightly lit in corporate colors with chairs and tables and espresso machines to sooth the busy customer.

The reality of banking – especially the lucrative segment of banking, such as high net worth and business banking services is that those people don’t actually want to go into a branch – they want as little to do with a branch and the people in it as possible.

All the research that we have seen or conducted shows that the core need from high value customers are personalisation, performance, convenience and accuracy – not one of them has ever mentioned the quality of their bank’s coffee.

This means the people that do have the time to sit down and chat and to talk about options and interface with the branch staff are more often than not low value customers.

Nobody wants to sit down and have a coffee with their bank manager – that’s something they want to do with their family and friends in the often limited free time they have.

Most customers, including high value customers, simply want to do their banking in the smoothest and quickest manner possible – UK retail banks appear to realize this, perhaps the efficiency seeking Australian and US banks should do likewise?

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