Aug 13 2012

The Future of the Branch: A Research Colloquium in Chicago


To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the branch’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Or have they?

While the future of the branch is being hotly debated at conferences, in journals, and across the blogosphere, one thing isn’t up for argument: that the branch of the future is likely to look quite a bit different than the branch of today. What kinds of branches should a credit union build in a world where mobile is increasingly ubiquitous, members expect the web to deliver not just content but functionality, and deep-pocketed technology players are lining up to enter the financial services space? How do a credit union’s strategy and field of membership impact its branching decisions? Which technologies will be branch must-haves in the next decade? And how should credit unions determine the effectiveness of their branch investments?

At Filene’s April 12 colloquium in Chicago, “The Future of the Branch,” experts from the worlds of academia, technology, and finance convened to address these critical topics. The conversations were lively and the opinions varied. What came through in each presentation and the discussions that followed was a sense of both the possibilities and challenges that a rapidly changing world presents.

This report summarizes the presentations and follow-up discussions from the colloquium’s four headline presentations, as well as an industry roundtable hosted by three credit union leaders who have approached the challenges of effective branch management in three very different ways. The colloquium format encourages input and discussion from both presenters and attendees, and the April 12 session certainly delivered both.

While there’s no doubt that the branch of the future won’t look quite the same as it does today, it’s important to recognize that change will likely be both more and less substantial than we imagine. To quote Bill Gates, as Glenn Strebe did, most organizations tend to overestimate what will happen in 2 years and underestimate what will happen in 10. Here’s hoping this forum helped us have more realistic expectations about what the future is likely to hold.

Report Number 278