OREANDA-NEWS. October 22, 2015. Bank branches are here to stay, writes Steven DeLaCastro. Theyre not in demand like they once were, due to the rise of digital banking, but retail branches will continue to play an important role for the foreseeable future. Excerpts:

Digital banking encompasses more than just Web and application experiences. It includes the way in which banks seamlessly blend the physical and virtual touchpoints needed to create a consistent omni-channel experience. What better place to do that than within the branch? Branches will continue to maintain an important role in acquiring, retaining and serving customers across digital and physical channels.

While the boundary-free workplace is alive and well, consumers still value a retail banking presence. Consequently, banks that have attempted a branchless approach or reduced their footprint too quickly have experienced brand erosion and undermined the ability for customers to complete complex interactions and transactions. To distinguish the hits from misses, banks can use analytics to identify large concentrations of high-touch customers and examine the cross-channel behaviours of millennials and digital natives.

When it comes to depositing, transferring or withdrawing common denominations of money, branches are no longer the go-to option. For that, consumers have smartphone apps, secure Web sites and strategically placed ATMs. For everything else, customers head straight to a branch. This may change as technology improves and millennials become the majority of customers. Until then, branches will flourish, continue to provide credibility and remain business-critical to banks.

With branch traffic diminishing, careful analysis is needed to make economical decisions on viable locations and staffing needs. This is where analytics can give banking executives a better understanding of changing demographics and user experience demands.

Fewer, smaller, smarter and more open: Thats the future of retail bank branches. Since not everything can or should be done digitally, branches will continue to play an important role, albeit in limited and smaller-scale doses. Whatever happens, both banks and customers stand to gain, so long as the evolving services can be accomplished flawlessly between both digital self-service and relevant branches.