Surveys find consumers conflicted about beleaguered branches

June 9, 2015

NEW YORK (6/9/15)--Driven away by the emergence of online- and mobile-banking technology, in no time credit union branches will cease to exist.

Or will they?

Two separate surveys have offered conflicting reports on the future of the financial institution branch, with one survey finding that consumers will continue to want the option to walk into a physical location, and the other predicting the extinction of branches within a decade.

The survey supporting the branch’s survival--from ORC International--found that 88% of American consumers still feel they need a physical location for their financial services needs ( June 5).

Further, the survey found that 84% believe physical branches will still be important in five years, despite advancements in technology.

“Consumers want both options--the ability to interact on-the-go and on their own schedule via mobile and online offerings, as well as the option to be able to have face-to-face engagements for more complex issues such as investments and mortgages,” said Marina Stein, ORC International senior research analyst.

Additional findings from the ORC survey:

  • 84% of respondents said they want access to a person to discuss financial services needs now, and 84% said they expect to want access five years from now;
  • 68% use paper checks, and 62% expect to do so in five years; and
  • 60% said they need mobile apps for banking and payment functions, and 70% expect to need them in the future.

On the other hand, a survey by Goldman Sachs found that 33% of millennials say they won’t need a physical branch in five years ( June 2).

And experts are lining up to write off the physical branch as the global community continues its migration online.

“I was walking today, and there were 20 bank branches in six blocks on Madison Avenue,” said Jay Sidhu, chair and CEO of Customers Bancorp ( “That’s $30 million in rent. Putting screens in branches … Why, when we all have screens in our pockets?”