More and more, going digital in banking is seen as 21st century cool, while for branch banking, some believe the death knell has sounded. At BBVA Compass however, branches are an increasingly important part of the bank’s digital transformation.

In addition to being key to the customer experience as places where people come for personal service, to conduct high-value transactions and get problem resolution, BBVA Compass branches actively contribute to customers’ adoption of digital channels — like mobile banking — and, the bank recently found, may also play a role in digital sales.

Olalla: Branches are crucial in ways many don’t think, such as helping customers of all ages adapt to an increasingly digital reality

“Branches are critical to BBVA Compass, for all the ‘typical’ reasons, like relationship development, branding, positive customer experiences and the like,” said BBVA Compass Head of Business Development Pepe Olalla. “But they are also crucial in ways many don’t think, such as helping customers of all ages adapt to an increasingly digital reality.”

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Francisco Gonzalez in Barcelona

With this in mind, the Channels team at BBVA Compass recently spent the greater part of September through December 2017 traveling across the bank’s footprint conducting in-depth training for more than 650 Client Experience Managers (CEMs) on the bank’s Mobile Banking App. This was done with an eye toward helping branch personnel become technology facilitators — or Blue Mavericks — for customers, a role that is akin to the Genius in Apple’s wildly popular Apple Stores. Feedback on the program has been overwhelmingly positive with team members indicating their increased confidence in blending financial and technology conversations with customers.

According to Director of Multi-Channel Sales & Promotion Cody Sparks, in-person training has been the key to an intimate understanding of the app and its award winning functionality that can answer customers’ most common questions, and help them self-serve common transactions. Sparks says the training has made the CEMs excited to share the knowledge they’ve gleaned with customers and other team members.

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“Branches — and specifically the people in them — are one of the most important pieces of our business, and we want to train our teammates to be ready for an increasingly digital future so they can help our customers adapt to the same,” Sparks said. “What this means in practice is that we need to empower our branch team to transition their role from being an expert in transactions to being an expert in finance and technology. Seamlessly blending banking and technology through the relationships our teams have with customers is the future.”

A recent study conducted by BBVA Compass also demonstrated the importance of branches when it comes to digital sales, finding that there is a correlation between the products bought in digital channels and the proximity of branches, where the former is higher when branches are located in proximity.

The study indicates that a majority of digital customers were acquired within 5 miles of a branch location, while markets with more branch presence tend to attract more digital sales.

Olalla: Customers trust financial products they purchase digitally when they feel like they have the option of branch interaction

Olalla said, “We think this correlation shows that there is a trust factor at play — in other words, customers trust financial products they purchase digitally when they feel like they have the option of branch interaction.”

Ultimately, Olalla said, what the Blue Maverick program and the uptick in digital sales around branches prove is that efficient digital transformation does not mean the end of branches.

“Branches are hugely important, particularly as banks look to transform digitally,” he said. “Is their role changing? Certainly. But, ultimately, we are in the people business and it’s the people in our branches who make that digital transformation happen.”

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