Banking Takes a Page out of Retail’s ‘Clienteling’ Playbook

banker greeting customer

Banking, like any business, thrives on customer loyalty, on getting the right customers through the digital doors … and the branch settings too.

The rise of digital banking has spurred financial institutions (FIs) to take a page from retail, specifically, the practice known as “clienteling,” which in turn means that the folks who walk into the branch are the very customers that the bank wants to be there … the high value, repeat business relationships that last a long time.

Generally speaking, at least in retail, clienteling involves the strategy of assigning individual sales associates in the store to consumers — a one-to-one interaction that does two things:

  1. It leverages data, at the consumer level, to create a personalized approach that addresses the customer’s needs and preferences for that visit.
  2. And in doing so, improves the efficiency of each visit — in terms of the employee’s time spent, productively, with the client, while making sure the individual walks away with what he or she came for.

The reimagining of the branch has been a key endeavor for banks precisely because so many functions previously fulfilled by tellers and bankers — from deposits to loan applications — can now be done on a mobile device.

Digital Pivot

The pivot to digital interactions has been underscored by banks of all sizes, and has been noted in recent earnings reports. In but one highly-visible example, as detailed here, during its first-quarter earnings report, Bank of America said it had seen 3.4 billion digital logins, with digital sales accounting for half of its total sales. Digital households representing 86% of its installed base.

In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Rich Clow, managing director and head of innovation and strategy, Global Payments Solutions, Bank of America, told PYMNTS that omnichannel’s popularity means “these are not the same branches that your parents went to.” Bank of America, as has been seen with other FIs, enables client to schedule appointments online and to meet face-to-face to discuss specific loans or other products, Clow said.

“This helps a client avoid being in a queue, waiting for a teller, and it also helps us prepare and have the right person doing the preparation for the interaction,” he said. “The result is a much more valuable exchange.”

Elsewhere, JPMorgan Chase discussed in its most recent annual report that in 2023 its digital banking platform grew to nearly 67 million active customers, up 28% since 2019. And the company noted that its “branches remain a critical touchpoint as over 900,000 people walk into one every day … In 2023, over 2 million more customers met with a banker than in 2022.” The company said that customers classified as “multi line of business” individuals stood at 24 million at the end of last year, up 9% from 2022’s levels.

PYMNTS Intelligence research, in collaboration with NCR Voyix, found 60% of millennials, 57% of Generation Z and 52% of Generation X use mobile banking apps as their primary financial tool. And 72% of bank customers rated personalized services “very highly” when they were looking for a bank.