2001 volume 33(8) pages 1371 – 1384

Cite as:
Willis R, Marshall J N, Richardson R, 2001, "The impact of 'branchless banking' on building society branch networks" Environment and Planning A 33(8) 1371 – 1384

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The impact of 'branchless banking' on building society branch networks

Richard Willis, J Neill Marshall, Ranald Richardson

Received 2 October 2000; in revised form 16 February 2001

Abstract. The authors examine the impact of the remote delivery of financial services on the branch network of British building societies. The current phase of branch-network rationalisation in the financial sector in Europe and North America is argued in the academic literature to be the inevitable consequence of the growth of electronic and telemediated forms of delivery of financial services. In the British building society sector, despite some evidence of branch closure as the use of the Internet and telephone call centres in the delivery of financial services has grown, the picture that emerges is of a dynamic branch network that is responding to changing customer demands and new technological possibilities. Face-to-face advice and discussions between customers and trained 'experts' remain an important part of the mortgage transaction. In the savings market, where products have become more commodified, telephone call centres and, more recently, the Internet have become more prominent, but institutions still rely heavily on the branch network to deliver services. The authors suggest that, although there have been changes in the relative importance of different distribution channels as sources of business in the financial sector, it is wrong to view these changes in terms of a simple branch-versus-direct dichotomy. A more complex picture is presented, with most institutions adopting a multichannel approach to the delivery of financial services, and electronic forms of delivery of financial services being developed as an additional delivery channel alongside the branch.

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