Will “Clicks” Dominate “Bricks” in the Banking Industry?
With the advent of virtual banks (“clicks”) and the convenience they provide, a key question is whether they will become the primary form in which banks do their business, eliminating the need for physical bank branches (“bricks”) as the main delivery mechanism for banking services. Indeed, will stand-alone Internet banks be the wave of the future? The answer seems to be no. Internet-only banks such as Wingspan (owned by Bank One), First-e (Dublin-based), and Egg (a British Internet-only bank owned by Prudential) have had disappointing revenue growth and profits. The result is that pure online banking has not been the success that proponents had hoped for. Why has Internet banking been a disappointment? There are several strikes against Internet banking. First, bank depositors want to know that their savings are secure, and so are reluctant to put their money into new institutions without a long track record. Second, customers worry about the security of their online transactions and whether their transactions will truly be kept private. Traditional banks are viewed as being more secure and trustworthy in terms of releasing private information. Third, customers may prefer services provided by physical branches. For example, banking customers seem to prefer to purchase long-term savings products face-to-face. Fourth, Internet banking has run into technical problems— server crashes, slow connections over phone lines, mistakes in conducting transactions—that will probably diminish over time as technology improves. The wave of the future thus does not appear to be pure Internet banks. Instead it looks like “clicks and bricks” will be the predominant form of banking, in which online banking is used to complement the services provided by traditional banks. Nonetheless, the delivery of banking services is undergoing massive changes, with more and more banking services delivered over the Internet and the number of physical bank branches likely to decline in the future.
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