Are our mobile phones replacing bank branches?

Sally McMullen 11 September 2017

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Our growing reliance on mobile banking could mean the end of bank branches.

Thanks to my bank’s app, I haven’t had to visit a branch in years. And according to new research about mobile banking, I am probably not unique in this respect.

A report from App Annie, a mobile app market data and insights company, showed that Australians have doubled their use of financial apps since 2014. In 2016 alone, more than 110 billion sessions took place in finance apps in the Asia-Pacific area. Interestingly, finance category downloads also grew faster than any other app category (excluding gaming) between 2014 and 2016.

The Asia-Pacific Banking report studied how mobile banking is changing the way we manage our finances and showed that Aussies are ahead of the curve in the way we use this digital technology. Across the top 10 Australian banking apps, the average monthly number of sessions exceeds more than 25 per month, indicating that checking our mobile banking apps is part of the average Aussie’s daily routine.

Although some are worried about the prospect of closing bank branches, SVP of research at App Annie, Danielle Levitas, believes the growing engagement in mobile apps is an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

“Apps provide a convenient, secure and personalised service for the ever-connected consumer to execute financial transactions,” said Levitas. “They provide banks and other financial institutions with a unique opportunity to enrich relationships with customers, reduce costs associated with in-branch transactions and create new growth opportunities.”

Given our growing reliance on mobile alternatives on everything else in life, our shift towards mobile banking is hardly surprising. We’re seeing banks closing down their branches and banks like ANZ replacing traditional branches with “cashless” alternatives. According to RFi Group, we’ve also seen transactional business in branches drop by approximately 10% a year.

Although we're unlikely to see a branchless society any time soon, we can assume that the number of physical bank branches will continue to dwindle as Australians continue to embrace digital banking. But as long as we're still handling cash, it's likely that Aussies will still have a need for bank branches for the time being.

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