The Year in Banking: A Look Back and A Look Ahead

Adrenaline’s president Gina Bleedorn shares her thoughts on the major topics and themes defining a pivotal time in banking

Phone screens showing Tower Federal Credit Union social media posts
  • Brand relevance is just as important internally for employees as it is externally for consumers
  • Financial institutions are no longer focused on making the business case for brand, but about advancing brand within their organizations
  • The branch remains an essential touchpoint, especially as a way to access financial education and expertise
  • With expectations rising, banks need to be swift and smart about their investment in the physical channel

Brand Relevance

Looking Back: What we have seen happen over the past three to four years is nothing short of a metamorphosis of the consumer landscape across all industries – none more impacted than financial services. The great Covid pause represented a reset for the banking industry, especially around the idea of relevance and what a brand means to an organization. Adrenaline’s own data gathered at one of the industry’s most influential conferences and published in early 2023 found that financial institutions understand the essential role of brand for growth, with three out of four banking leaders saying their brand value critically impacts their business value.

Chart depicting survey results of how financial institutions view the role or brand

According to Believe in Banking, “Having a powerful brand that’s authentic in its values and built on humanity results in deeper customer connections and lasting loyalty.” That kind of brand relevance is just as important internally (for employees) as it is externally (for consumers). In fact, one of the topics spotlighted at every banking conference held today is how to recruit, engage and maintain talented staff. Brand plays an essential role in that competition for talent, because it represents a window into the soul of an organization that makes people want to be part of and stay part of the bank or credit union.    

Looking Ahead: Moving forward, there is more shared understanding from the C-Suite, the board and throughout organizations that brand matters. So, the focus is no longer about making the business case for brand, but more about advancing the idea of brand within the organization. As a result, there is a real proliferation of brands that are deep and brands that are meaningful. These brands are truly reflective of what a bank or credit union has to offer – being brought to life in an authentic, comprehensive way for their customers or members and for their staff. For these organizations, brand values are lived both internally and externally.

why consumers choose certain banks

Bringing forward these values means staff, leadership, members and customers buy in, and then ultimately the market at large buys in to what a brand represents. That’s exciting for banks and credit unions because everybody wins in the end. Customers and members win because they’re getting greater value with and connection to organizations that are more dedicated to delivering on a promise of good for them. Then internally, the organizations win because they have more uplifted, cohesive cultures. As businesses, banks and credit unions are getting more growth and market share. So ultimately, it’s a rising tide for all because of the power of brand.

Branch Resurgence

Looking Back: During that same three to four year time window, people’s branch banking habits significantly shifted, but not in the way one might think. Yes, adoption of digital and mobile tools ramped up during Covid because consumers had less access to the branch. But there was a rebound back to the branch post-pandemic. Now, not only will people go to a branch location, they actually want to go. Of course, they’ll absolutely go less frequently and for different purposes than they did before, but the branch remains an essential touchpoint for consumers, especially as a way to access financial education and expertise.

Most bankers have come to understand that while there are differences by market and by demographic, on the whole, there is a trend towardfewer but more valuable branch visits. Interestingly, though, the demographics aren’t necessarily what people might assume. While older generations are certainly attached to their branches, surprisingly, so are younger generations. In fact, the younger a consumer is, the more likely they are to value the branch as a place for advice. Even more, data shows that there is a greater awareness among younger generations about the complexity of finances.

Looking Ahead: Gen Z has a deep understanding about the role of finance in their lives. They know financial information is complex, and they want to talk to a trusted expert about it. The branch provides the perfect platform for those conversations. As such, this offers a great opportunity for financial institutions, but there is also a window of opportunity that can close. If people, especially younger generations, come to the branch and the experience is not what they are hoping for, that represents an institutional risk. From a business perspective, the emerging reality is that banks need to be swift and smart about their investment in the physical channel.

Understanding what drives consumers to bank and credit union branches

In the last few years, there is a consensus among banks and credit union leaders that the branch experience needs to change. Beyond that, there is a desire to rethink network and retail delivery holistically. Institutions are acting with more strategic intent, justification and planning behind what they’re doing with their capital spend. Ultimately, that has created an environment where institutions are no longer building branch by branch, but they are thinking five years out and creating strategic plans for retail delivery that align with the strategic business plans of the organization. It’s not site by site thinking; it is network-wide thinking.

To learn more about branch transformation and brand and marketing strategies that can get your bank or credit union ready for growth, or to speak with one of Adrenaline’s experts, contact us today.

Adrenaline is an end-to-end brand experience company serving the financial industry. We move brands and businesses ahead by delivering on every aspect of their experience across digital and physical channels, from strategy through implementation. Our multi-disciplinary team works with leadership to advise on purpose, position, culture, and retail growth strategies. We create brands people love and engage audiences from employees to customers with story-led design and insights-driven marketing; and we design and build transformative brand experiences across branch networks, leading the construction and implementation of physical spaces that drive business advantage and make the brand experience real.

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