How Citizens Bank Is Utilizing Digital Signage to Do More with Smaller Branches

As foot traffic decreases, banks are shrinking their branch footprints faster than ever before - and Citizens Bank is no exception. However, with over 1,100 branches in operation, Citizens is now in year two of a ten-year plan not to reduce its overall number of branches, but to reduce the square footage of each branch to do more with less space.

As Bruce Van Saun, Chairman and CEO of Citizens Financial Group, Inc., explains: "There's a little bit of pruning of the number of locations, but the greater element of the program is trying to take 4,200-square-foot branches and turn them into 2,500 or 2,200 square foot branches. I'd say, by 2021, I think we'll have gone through 50% of the branches as the target."

Reimagining the Branch

The rise of online and mobile banking has put a big question mark over the future of the traditional branch. Over 2,000 branches closed last year - an 18% increase over 2016 - leading many pundits to conclude that branches are dead (or dying).

Closing branches is, of course, one way financial institutions can save money and improve the bottom line. But it comes at a cost - face-to-face interactions with customers, which are critical for cementing long-lasting relationships.

It's a conundrum the banking sector faces the world over. Some, like Capital One and Umpqua Bank, are transforming their retail locations to become more like community centers and coffee shops than traditional bank branches. The UK's Virgin Money has even gone so far as to install bowling alleys, libraries, and games rooms in a number of its branches as a means to keep customers engaged with the brand and entice them back through the front door.

Now, Citizens Bank, too, is embracing the community center model as it embarks on a branch redesign strategy to nurture better relationships with customers.

"We want to reduce the overall square footage in the branches, and we want to take what was space dedicated to transactions and [turn] the remaining space [into] more private rooms for conversation," Van Saun said. "We can also use the foyer and the entrance room for putting in some very sophisticated machines."

Enhancing the In-branch Customer Experience with Digital Signage

Citizens believes that it still needs its branches to properly service its customers. While many people now prefer to handle their everyday transactions online or on mobile, they still need to meet face-to-face with bankers from time to time to discuss more complex personal or business financial issues. In response, Citizens is overhauling its existing branches - not only reducing their size, but also installing digital tech, and redesigning them to be more inviting spaces where customers can spend longer periods of time discussing their finances with real-life bankers.

In April this year, Citizens Bank turned to long-term partner AT&T to provide advanced technology solutions for over 1,100 of its branches around the US. The initiative aims to enhance the customer experience with technology and includes a state-of-the-art digital signage network for Citizens' branches.

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AT&T is working with Cineplex Digital Media to develop, install and operate the signage, with the aim of creating an immersive digital retail experience for Citizens' customers. 1,047 Citizens branches are now running the new Cineplex media players (the rest will be equipped later this year), which display content - featuring topics like planning for retirement or managing student loans - customized to each branch. The screens also provide local weather, news, sports, entertainment, and stock updates.

This new technology enables Citizens Bank to offer what AT&T says is a richer customer experience through next-generation features and new design concepts. "We've provided technology solutions to Citizens Bank for almost two decades," said AT&T's Vice President of Global Business Financial Solutions, Anthony Leggio. "Our world-class technology coupled with Citizens Bank's outstanding products and services create a winning customer experience."

Citizens is also replacing paper pamphlets with digital tools, such as a digital retirement check-up platform which customers can use when coming into a branch to meet with a banker. It can also project digital content onto the walls of meeting rooms.

Final Thoughts

Through smaller, redesigned branch concepts, Citizens Bank is aligning its business operations with consumer trends which are resulting in less foot traffic. However, by offering customers a comfortable place to come and chat about their personal finances - and ramping up the experience with some advanced digital signage - customers that do visit are likely to stay for longer, giving Citizens the opportunity to foster stronger relationships.

"If customers are coming into branches less, we don't need eight teller lines," said Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Virtual Channels at Citizens Bank, Beth Johnson. "We've started to think about how to evolve the [branch] network to enable colleagues to have more advice-based conversations with customers."

You can hear Mark Duncan, Director of Branch Channel Development and Susan Gorden Ryan, Vice President, Distribution Strategy Implementation Director at Citizens Bank speak at Future Branches 2018 this December at the Hilton Austin, Austin, TX.

Download the Agenda for more insights and information.

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