Millennials Increasingly Prefer the Physical Bank Branch

July 20, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

It’s a radical departure from pretty much everything we’ve heard about millennials so far, and it all comes to us courtesy of a study from SurveyMonkey. The thousand-user survey—290 of which were between 18-34, one typical measure of millennials—showed that there’s still a lot of life left in the physical bank branch, at least if one wants to keep millennial banking business.

Those who think they can close a bank branch with impunity in the market are in for a rude awakening, according to the SurveyMonkey study. While mobile payments and peer-to-peer (P2P) cash exchanges are doing quite well, with 63 percent of respondents having used such systems recently, physical banks are still valuable.

Fully 80 percent of surveyed millennials want the option to visit a bank branch, and those banks that don’t have such a feature are actually less likely to be turned to when it’s time to open an account. While this is a departure from expected norms—23 percent of Americans surveyed hadn’t walked into a bank branch in six months (one wonders here what the percent of drive-thru window users used to be)—millennials walk into a branch in just over half of all cases.

The survey revealed that millennials have virtually no interest in social media-based banking, as under five percent of respondents were current users. This actually dovetails with earlier studies revealing that 77 percent of respondents wanted to be able to trust their bank above anything else, despite the fact that 83 percent wanted more options when it came to banking overall. The biggest source of trust, meanwhile, was found to be the physical bank branch itself.

Banks have long had the advantage in trust. Just look at the bank itself; there’s a big room shod in metal with huge locks where they keep the cash. Most banks are brick buildings staffed by older people. They fairly exude trust; sometimes trust is right in the name, as in “(fill in the blank) Bank and Trust.” Not the same meaning, I know, but for most it likely resonates.

Granted, I don’t think anyone really saw it coming that the millennials wanted physical anything, but there it is: bank branches are safe for at least this generation because the millennials want bank branches.