From yellow ATMs to white bank branches

Last week, the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported that the coronavirus crisis is forcing banks to close even more branches and banks such as ING and Rabobank are planning to reduce branch numbers quickly. Many of the bank offices that were temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions won't resume operations.

This seems a logical step given the fact that the coronavirus crisis has sped up the adoption of online banking. However, although banks offer many online services, there are still transactions that require customers to visit a bank branch in person. Furthermore, socially or digitally excluded people, such as a large number of elderly people, will be sidelined by this development say Dutch Senior Citizens’ Associations ANBO and KBO-PCOB in the article.

With the bank branch closures, which will continue in the coming years, a basic provision is threatened. Namely, the possibility for everyone to be able to handle their money matters in a simple and easily accessed manner.

Banks would be perfectly capable of solving this problem together. Didn't Dutch banks join forces to introduce a new, uniform ATM system? The yellow cash machine called 'Geldmaat’ replaced the banks' own ATMs nationwide in one sweep. This joint initiative is much more cost-efficient and ensures the ATMs are evenly distributed across the country. Would a joint approach not also be a solution for bank branches? Isn't it time for, say, white-coloured bank branches?

A single bank branch that offers banking services of different banks. Where people are assisted in making the transition from branch visits to online and mobile banking, but are still offered day-to-day banking services in person. One place where customers of any bank can do their banking, assisted by sensitive and informed staff. If banks were to put the common good ahead of their individual interests, they could take responsibility for a uniform, nation-wide accessible bank branch network. And a good infrastructure would still be available to those who need it, just like other facilities such as doctor's offices and pharmacies.

From here, it is only a small step to offer a wider range of basic services in these 'generic' banks’ in order to keep basic facilities accessible. Some services, such as collecting parcels with proof of identity, have become increasingly difficult to access due to the disappearance of post offices. And as a result of municipality mergers, places where citizens can go to renew their driving licence, identity card or passport have also become scarce. A combination of these functions in a well accessible network of offices would ensure that everyone in the Netherlands has access to these important basic facilities.

Hans Preeker

managing partner | consultant

share via: