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Digital channels provide customers with the freedom to bank when and where they want, but the majority of Canadians haven’t lost their connection with their local branch. New research from Mintel reveals that more than eight in 10 (86%) Canadian bank consumers have visited a branch in the past year, with one quarter (25%) saying they visit their local branch more than once a month on average. What’s more, no matter how tech-inclined they are in other parts of their lives, younger consumers find value in visiting their local branch. In fact, the country’s oldest and youngest consumers are more likely than Canadians overall to be frequent visitors to their local branch as three in 10 (29%) Younger Millennials (aged 24-31) and Baby Boomers (aged 54-72) say they visit their local branch more than once a month on average.

While Canadians young and old are frequenting their neighbourhood bank branch, their reasons for doing so are quite different. Older bank consumers aged 55+ are the most likely age group to visit their branch for financial planning advice (20% vs 16% of Canadians overall) and to buy investment products (16% vs 11% overall). Meanwhile, younger bank consumers aged 18-24 are most likely to visit their bank branch for money transfers (33% vs 21% overall), to open an account (26% vs 13% overall) and to apply for a credit card (20% vs 9% overall).

Younger Canadians represent a prime target for bank branches as they are the most likely consumers to be increasing their visits. In fact, more than one quarter (28%) of bank consumers aged 18-24 say that they find themselves visiting their local branch more as they get older, compared to just 13% of consumers overall.

“The appeal of the bank branch continues to be strong in the face of technological banking innovations, even among younger consumers who are likely still in the early stages of their financial journey. The branch network can play a critical role in building relationships, enhancing trust, providing financial advice and easing the transition to digital channels. We see that younger consumers are increasing the frequency of their visits to banks likely because they are relatively inexperienced in financial matters and have weaker credit histories, resulting in a desire to learn about their finances in-person. However, brands should avoid marginalizing older customers through mass reduction of human personnel as Baby Boomers are some of the most likely visitors of their bank branch as they are typically more affluent and seeking financial planning and investment advice,” said Sanjay Sharma, Senior Financial Services Analyst at Mintel.

While more than half (54%) of bank consumers say they prefer to look online for answers about their financial accounts rather than visit a branch, many consumers agree that some things are better handled in person. In fact, nearly three quarters (72%) of bank consumers agree that they would prefer to buy more complex products at a branch rather than online, and 68% say they would be more likely to buy new financial products/services at their local branch than through call centre sales. Meeting face to face when resolving issues is also preferred for most as three in five (62%) bank consumers agree that if they need a problem resolved, they would prefer to visit their local branch than use a call centre.

35% of bank consumers agree that digital banks cannot meet all of their banking needs.

Despite the fact that digital tools are on the rise, more than one third (35%) of bank consumers agree that digital banks cannot meet all of their banking needs, rising to 44% of those aged 55+. In fact, many prefer to do routine transactions at their local branch as Canadian bank consumers overall are by far and away most likely to visit their local branch to deposit a cheque (53%). What’s more, other top reasons to visit their local branch include customer service/product information (25%), bill payments (23%) and money transfers (21%).

“In many ways, the rise of quick-service formats and automated service has actually fuelled a greater desire for good old-fashioned customer service, particularly in face-to-face form. Although bank customers have many channels to choose from when completing routine transactions, many customers are still choosing to visit their local branch, indicating that financial institutions should emphasize the convenience of completing routine transactions using mobile banking apps to increase mobile banking adoption. However, while branches are the best place to cement long-term customer relationships, they are also being challenged to evolve with the advent of artificial intelligence, robotics and increased digitization. Bank branches of the future might witness a slow shift toward being more advice-centred rather than transactional,” concluded Sharma.

Press copies of Mintel’s Branch Banking Experience Canada 2018 report and interviews with Sanjay Sharma, Senior Financial Services Analyst, are available on request from the press office.