The bank lobby has been a fixture in American consciousness for generations; serving as a backdrop in movies, television and, indeed, real life. But as FIs adjust their physical footprint in accordance with consumer behaviors and growth in mobile technology usage, it isn't just lobbies themselves that are changing: so too is the banking profession.
It raises the question: What will the banking business look like 10 years from today? The answer lies in cues that are already becoming apparent.
In a dramatic new article in the Financial Times, analysts interviewed projected that as many as 200,000 banking jobs could be scaled back or eliminated entirely in the coming decade. That's the rough equivalent of 10% of the sector's employment base, a number that has consistently hovered at approximately 2 million in the United States.
"Institutions have had the opportunity to examine branch operations and re-evaluate strategy for efficiency optimization."
In some respects, anticipated job cuts are to be expected, since the pace of merger and acquisition activity is expected to accelerate alongside pandemic recovery. Furthermore, while many branch closures planned ahead of COVID crisis were put on hold, plans are resuming. Institutions have also had the opportunity to examine branch by branch operations in the course of the last 12 months and re-evaluate strategy for efficiency optimization.
Indeed, the last 15 months has witnessed account holders turning to their mobile apps, websites, drive-ups and ATMs/ITMs. In April and May of 2020, bank lobbies saw 30% fewer customers than they did during the same period in 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal. And this trend continued even after lobbies began to re-open. Reduced foot traffic is a key driver for branch closures.
Industry experts, therefore, believe that 2021 may be the year historians look back on as the turning point for the industry and its employees.
"This will be the biggest reduction in US bank headcount in history," Mike Mayo, an analyst at Wells Fargo, told the Financial Times.
Tellers and bank call centers most affected
Since ATMs and especially ITMs perform many of the functions as bank tellers, FIs are less dependent on humans for basic transactions. This may explain why the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 15% decline in teller job openings over the next 10 years.
But according to Mayo, it is call center positions that will likely be scaled back even more in the coming years. Ironically, call centers proved to be an all-important channel amid the COVID-19 lockdown, with household-name FIs such as JPMorgan Chase and Citibank experiencing a surge in calls, as ATM Marketplace reported at the time. However, with automated messaging systems capable of performing many of the same functions as call center technicians, Mayo expects these positions to drop dramatically.
"Banks must become more productive to remain relevant," Mayo added. "And that means more computers and less people."
Mayo was quick to point out that this doesn't necessarily mean large layoffs are in the offing. To the contrary, he suspects the reductions will be achieved naturally through attrition, as workers decide to leave of their own free will and no one is hired to replace them.
As many of the traditional banking jobs become less vital than they have been in the past, FIs are reimagining roles, offering personalized services and pursuing initiatives specifically designed to engage consumers virtually.
One current focal point is real-time bill pay. As American Banker reported, third-party providers, fintechs and numerous other e-commerce entities now allow customers to pay their bills directly at their websites. This has led to a 15% drop in the number of consumers using their bank's websites for bill payments over the past decade, based on data from Aite Group.
"Banks are providing more unique service offerings that make the bill payment process more efficient and effortless."
In an attempt to woo them back to their previous habits, banks are providing more unique service offerings that make the bill payment process more efficient and effortless. Brad Jones, who serves as Vice President of Project Management for bill payment solutions at Fiserv, told American Banker that when real-time bill payment technology becomes more widely available, banks will be at the front of the line.
"Our gateway supports every payment rail, and as we build it out for real-time payments, we'll be able to offer bank customers the maximum number of choices in how to pay local, regional and national bills," Jones said.
The popularity of real-time bill payment among consumers — and the rate of adoption among banks — may spawn new positions designed to improve this service channel or promote its availability.
Bank professionals may also be realigned to support the consumer's sense of financial well-being. According to research done by Gallup, customers who believe their bank makes it easy for them to manage their money and reach their goals report higher levels of financial well-being. The likelihood of them feeling that way stems from the quality of their banking experience.
The singular importance of the bank customer or credit union member experience — whether in-person or online — may lead to a growth in satisfaction-related jobs, such as relationship managers or quality assurance specialists.
FI are constantly reinventing themselves and adapting to the ever-changing consumer landscape. If you need a hand in this effort, turn to BranchServ Convergint. Now a part of Convergint Technologies, we're also changing, but the quality of our services remain top of the line. For physical security, electronic security or branch transformation solutions, we can help you change for the better. Contact us today.