Pandemic response in 2020 saw a significant increase in online and mobile banking use. It also resulted in a frightfully massive number of bank and credit union branch closures. The bulk of these closings did not happen at the height of COVID-19 closures. Instead, they occurred due to the fallout, ranging primarily between May and July 2020.
A Fundamental Problem for Financial Access
Most closures could easily be the result of staffing shortages, financial troubles, or an anticipated long-term drop in traffic volume. But by June of 2021, the results were troubling as branch closings since 2019 removed financial services from an additional forty-eight geographical areas, raising the number of “banking deserts” to one thousand six hundred and ten.
These banking deserts are primarily non-metropolitan, such as rural neighborhoods or highly urban areas. Together, they contain an estimated 5.6 million people. Unfortunately, these same communities are also disproportionately lacking access to broadband or reliable mobile services. Over 23 million rural residents have internet download speeds of less than twenty-five Mbps and three Mbps upload. And mobile coverage is inconsistent across carriers.
Filling the Gap
Not all financial institutions have given up on branches. According to data from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), over seven hundred credit unions reported plans to add branches or expand facilities after September 2020.
Similarly, institutions like J.P. Morgan Chase are re-focusing on opening new branches in places they don’t currently have a presence. Since 2017, the top four US banks have all averaged over three thousand branch locations. They each kept their total branch losses below four percent (4%) even through the pandemic. Chase has announced it is looking to open four hundred new locations by the end of 2022.
Make It Easy For Consumers
But even after new branches open, new ATMs or ITM / Video Tellers get installed, and new retail partnerships grow to fill the gap, marketing this to consumers and effectively communicating about it with your cardholders can be difficult. Fortunately, the Wave2 locator can make it easy to provide accessible information and directions to all of your branches, surcharge-free ATMs, shared facilities, retail partnerships and more, helping to change the perception of your convenient access.
Branch Page Integration Options
Did you know that Wave2 also offers many ways to integrate your branch information into your website branch specific pages? You can easily add a single-location mini-map, branch details, hours, directions links, and feature descriptions, and even Local Business Schema Object data to your branch pages so that they all stay up-to-date automatically with your location data from the Wave2 Admin Portal.
Jason Green, Co-Founder
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