TwitterFacebookLinkedInEmailMessengerAs more and more consumers choose to conduct their banking on tablets, smartphones and other technologically advanced channels, many financial institutions are wondering what to do with the channel that started it all—the branch. Simply put, institutions cannot afford to rest on their laurels when it comes to branches. The time to make a change in branch strategy is now, and if banks want to pull off the ultimate branch transformation, it starts with innovation. In this three-part blog series, we’ll take a deep dive into three areas of branch infrastructure in which institutions need to innovate to stay ahead: staff, layout and technology. Innovating Branch Staff to Handle Evolving Customer Needs According to a recent survey from the Federal Reserve, the number of people completing bank transactions through ATMs, Internet banking and mobile banking is on the rise. However, 84 percent of consumers who have a bank account reported visiting a branch and speaking with a teller in the 12 months prior to the survey. No matter how many banking transactions are placed through digital channels, customers still feel a connection with branches and will continue to visit them, but for assistance with complicated sales or service-oriented financial issues. To serve customers who demand more from their branches, current staff must be prepared to do more than handle routine transactions and questions. The Universal Banker Many institutions have begun transforming their branch model with a new role—the universal banker. According to research firm Customer Service Profiles (CSP), the universal banker “specializes in everything,” answering all but the most complex customer questions and avoiding the need to hand customers off to other associates. When looking for a universal banker, some of the skills and knowledge that the ideal candidate should have include: College degree, preferably in a related field (like finance or management) Previous sales experience Proven ability to build customer relationships Firm grasp on all bank products and services Friendly and open communication style Smaller institutions might not be able to afford new, highly skilled branch staff. Fortunately, there are financial institutions that have already paved the way, providing helpful implementation lessons for others considering the universal banker concept. If a customer can walk into a branch and have all of his or her needs covered by one person, that customer is more likely to leave happy and satisfied. And more satisfied customers tend to be more loyal and more open to cross-selling—all important benefits to an institution. Successful deployment of the universal banker model is dependent on concurrent changes to branch layout and technology, which we will explore in the coming weeks in parts two and three of this blog series.