The New Middle Ground in Banking

New York used to be famous for its luncheon clubs. Professional New Yorkers would take time midday to combine a fine meal with a networking experience followed by a slow afternoon and an early retreat to the suburbs.

Today our days are more pressured. A quick sandwich is often the best we can muster. For most of us lunch has become a fast food experience. We stick to our desks and leave our networking to Facebook and LinkedIn.

Retail banking has suffered a similar transformation. Time is no longer on our side so banking needs to be quick. Our demand for speed has fed a huge growth in self-service channels from the ATM to smart phone banking.

As a result traffic to branches is in decline.

Faced with a similar challenge, restaurants responded by offering more choices and better service. Now we can choose from a variety of dining experiences from kebabs on the sidewalk to haut cuisine at a posh restaurant. Even within restaurants there are different dining options from a snack at the bar to a private room.

In contrast, retail banking has been split between the 'fast food' self-service of ATMs and online channels and the haut cuisine of branches. As a result, the relationship with customers has become distant. Some meals have not gone well. Banking diners are looking for new experiences.

But developments in technology are creating a new 'middle ground' between a quick 'snack' at the ATM and a leaisurely meal at the branch as self-service and banker assisted channels converge offering more choices on the banking menu, redefining the concept of fine dining in financial services.

Automated calendaring and scheduling make it easier to 'book a table' in advance. Digital signage can manage expectations; provide advice on the menu and details of new dishes while customers 'wait at the bar.'

Surface devices and interactive walls provide a new way to savor the menu and enjoy tasty 'snacks' while waiting to be served, while the 'restaurant' staff is kept up-to-date on new dishes through social computing and on-line training.

Video conferencing is more accessible across multiple devices. Game changing developments in natural user interfaces are creating new options for banks to engage with customers across any channel regardless of location. Next generation ATMs allow bankers to assist customers on transactions and offer new services from the 'menu'.

Combining tablets with desktop technology and digital signature lets banks automate previously manual, paper based processes facilitating account opening and other service origination, helping customers make better choices.

Now meals are delivered more quickly and to the customers' specifications.

You want takeout? Internet TV is creating a new ecommerce portal. Mobile banking is not just about the phone; but should be accessible from any device regardless of location.

Back in the kitchen, banking chefs explore new dishes testing them with their clients in the restaurant to create game-changing dining experiences.

From the design of the restaurant to the plates and the cutlery, to the reviews on Facebook and the appeal of the website, everything has to work together to take the relationship with the customers to a completely new level.

Banks are replacing 'stickiness', the inconvenience of change, with a new loyalty and along with it a desire for more services.

The days of long lunch breaks may be over, but fine dining in banking is making a comeback - thanks to the new middle ground in financial services and a lot more compelling dishes on the menu with many more options for enjoying them.