While high-street branches remain on the slide, new online-only challenger banks are growing rapidly, with Atom Bank, available only through an app, raising more than £100m in the first quarter of 2017.
Commenting, Peter Neufeld, a partner and head of the customer experience at Ernst and Young, said that the growing demand for digital banking was “driving” banks to become more innovative as the “nature of the operations inside a branch continue to change”.
“We’re seeing more and more consumers are seeing their app as their primary banking experience,” he continued. “When we look at high streets and our clients, there’s a real big move to optimize the branch estate to reduce costs.
“I think in future more and more activities that take place in a branch are going to take place on mobile devices. It will result in a change in the makeup of what happens inside of actual branches.
“You can definitely see a lot of the banks looking to reduce the size of their estate overall, but you might also see examples of where the nature of what happens inside of bank changes.
Published today by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), the report found that customers are increasingly using their smartphones as “portable banks” – able to manage credit cards, mortgages, pay cheques and take part in live video exchanges with bank staff.
It adds that the number of financial transactions conducted on apps surged by 57 per cent in 2016, to 932 million, while a total of 4.9 billion app logins were recorded, also up by more than a third compared to the previous year.
Meanwhile, 434 million text alerts were sent to customers to help them track their spending during the same period, equivalent to 14 texts every second. In total, activity on banking apps has soared by more than 350 percent since 2012.
The figures come less than a month after it was revealed that more than 461 high-street branches will close this year across Britain, as traditional banks restructure in order to compete with online-only competitors.
However, Mr Neufeld added that an end to the high-street branch seemed “unlikely” because customers still prefer to “interact with other human beings when it comes to home-buying, retirement planning or a significant lending activity.”
“There’s a value in having a branch estate, even though there’s this enormous shift to digital,” he continued.
“The presence of a branch in the marketplace maintains trust with the consumer, so while we may see less in ten years time, their role will still be significant.”
The report, titled “An appetite for banking”, was released to coincide with the BBA’s annual retail banking conference in London on Thursday.
“While we may see fewer cashiers and cash-handling, new types of services could be created that drive more human experience. That could include services for small business owners in the community and more complex financial arrangements.”