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Branch Banking - Best Practice in the Worst of Times

By: Sandy Vaci
Published: January 2009

Branch Banking

It is by now a well-accepted fact that traditional channels, like branches, are here to stay in the retail banking domain. However, having to deal with established channels does not mean having to stick with traditional approaches to try to increase sales efficiencies through them.

At the same time, turning the branch on its head may also not bring the desired results. Many banks have tried, and failed, to turn the branch into something it should not have been in the first place. A balanced approach is needed - taking into account customer preferences, using the best aspects of the channel banks have already built and integrating all elements that drive efficiency, and more importantly revenue, in a synergistic way.

This study addresses the following three areas:

1.  Improving branch sales with an integrated approach;

2.  Building on branches with additional face-to-face channels for a significant efficiency boost; and,

3.  Covering non-traditional areas and glue elements to round out the picture.

The report is intended to be a practitioner’s guide. To accomplish this, it is rich in checklists, case studies, benchmarks and ‘how to’ templates. Most of the examples have been drawn from the author’s own experience, covering 25 years and 50 countries across four continents. At the same time, a number of areas have been given very little or no exposure at all. This is because they have been well-addressed by other books and studies in the past.

The focus is on presenting new but tested ideas and on how to integrate different practical approaches for best results. So, for example, there is limited discussion of model branch or call centre designs. But there are reviews on how they should fit into an overall efficiency-focused approach – their roles, the best ways to in- tegrate them, their evolution. Reviewing the table of contents should give the reader a good understanding of how the report is structured and what to expect.

Five new chapters include:

- Consultative personal selling reviewed and explained.

- A survey of global best practices.

- Implementing new strategic and operational plans for branches acquired from mergers.

- Cross-border branch strategies.

Existing chapters have been revised and fine tuned with improved coverage of:

- Managing client migration between segments.

- Using predictive modeling techniques to acquire and retain customers.

- How to recruit, manage and motivate intermediaries and outsourced staff

Read this report for:

  • An insight into consultative personal selling
  • A survey of global best practices
  • An assessment the critical success factors involved in implementing new strategic and operational plans for branches acquired from mergers
  • Analysis of cross-border branch strategies
  • A look at best practice in managing client migration between segments
  • A guide to using predictive modelling techniques to acquire and retain customers
  • Advice on recruiting, managing and motivating intermediaries and outsourced staff
  • A breakdown of trends among emerging and developed markets


For most banks, branches are still the key retail delivery channel. It would therefore make sense to start with the traditional branch set-up and explore how to make it work more efficiently. To do this, all parts of the ‘efficiency puzzle’ need to be integrated. Sales training needs to be followed by revised objectives, reflecting the expected improvements due to training. Proactive sales processes need to be given extra time – to be identified by capacity measurement and made available by capacity reallocation. Freeing up extra time for sales staff to do proactive selling needs to be integrated into well-planned sales processes, guided by superior sales management practices, to really work. Tracking and reward systems need to focus sales energies. The list goes on.

New approaches to traditional face-to-face selling have already been tested and proven by many banks. Branch agents and sales agents can improve efficiencies dramatically – but only when planned, implemented and managed properly. They can build on existing traditional channels so there is no need to tear out parts of the infrastructure that are working well. The key issue though is to not only integrate these new channels at the strategic level but do the execution correctly. Failure to do so can cost dearly, as those who took a good idea (for example, branch agents) and executed it poorly (for example, as a branch franchise set-up) have learned.

Finally, there are a number of ways that sales efficiencies can be increased, which are traditionally considered to belong to other functional areas and not to sales. Some of these are relatively new, like using local trade area segmentation to plan activities and set objectives at the branch level in a finely tuned way. Some of them have been around for some time and are strongly controlled by other areas,like evaluating potential bank acquisition targets. And many of them are essential ‘glue’ elements that tie things together for sales but rarely get mentioned as part of sales efficiency discussions: organisational design; pricing strategies; alliances; and more.

It is important that all of the above areas be addressed together, in a holistic way, if one wants to improve sales efficiencies with a lasting effect. It is equally important that each item be reviewed with a practical implementation approach in mind.


1. Background – The Case for Sales Efficiency, an Integrated Approach and the Branches

2. Branches – An Integrated Approach to Boost Sales Efficiencies

3. Needs-based personal selling and the consultative approach

4. Global best practices – overview

5. Promoting change - Implementation guide for best practice

6. Branch Agents – ‘Near Sourcing’ to Local Entrepreneurs

7. Sales Agents – Single-minded Focus on Acquisition Efficiencies

8. Intermediary channels: Managing third-party relationships

9. Other Approaches – Innovative Best Practices and ‘Glue’ Elements

10. International sales organisations: Moving cross-border

View full Summary Report

To order a copy of this report:

- contact Jeannie by email

- call Jeannie on +44 (0) 20 7563 5640

VRL publishes around 30 in-depth reports every year. Containing proprietary data, in-depth analysis and considered intelligence, VRL reports review the most pressing issues and trends impacting on the world of finance and cover a broad range of topics. These reports are compiled by associate editors, who are specialists in their field and contain original, previously unpublished content, based on fact and expert opinion. VRL reports provide the analytical intelligence needed to make informed business decisions in a concise and cost-effective manner, and often negate the need to incur costly external consultancy services.

In a recent customer survey on reports, conducted by VRL, 92% of respondents stated that VRL reports give access to information that is otherwise difficult or time-consuming to acquire. 93% said it gave them a good overview or summary of market developments. Overall 83% rated quality of information as excellent or very good and content and scope of coverage was rated at 94% and 82% respectively.


Retail Banking Products:


Retail Banker International
Banking and Payments Asia


Retail Banking and Cards Forum, September 2010, Bahrain (TBC)  
Retail Banking/Payments Innovation, Kuala Lumpur, 11-12 May 2010


Retail Banking/Payments Asia Roundtable, detailed subject matter TBC, Hosted by Titien Ahmad, VRL Asia-Pacific, and Hugh Fasken, Editor, Retail Banker International, August 2010


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