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April 27, 2022updated 30 Jun 2022 10:21am

Banca Carige gets smart with new branch strategy

Paola Acciai, Head of Marketing and Communications at Banca Carige discusses the bank’s new smart branch strategy with Douglas Blakey

By Douglas Blakey

Italy headquartered Banca Carige is rolling out an impressive network of new ‘smart branches’ to increase the range of services offered to customers.

Paola Acciai, Head of Marketing and Communications at Banca Carige tells Douglas Blakey that the branches will optimise the costs associated with physical locations and make more of the specialist skills of staff by focusing them on value–added consultancy activities. And the bank will use centralised remote banking as a strategic lever to extend these services to the wider area.

RBI: What was the aim of rolling out new smart branches?

Paola Acciai, Banca Carige: In remodelling its branches, there were some key objectives for Banca Carige including the desire to increase the services offered to customers by optimising the costs associated with physical locations, making more of the specialist skills of staff by focusing them on value–added consultancy activities, and using centralised remote banking as a strategic lever to extend these services to the wider area.

The objectives can be summarised as:

  • Increased branch profitability and reduced operating costs;
  • Optimise staff deployment and focus on value-added activities;
  • Offer high-quality services to customers;
  • Promote the bank’s digital transformation and customer relations, and
  • Maintaining a strong local presence”

RBI: How many branches are we talking about here?

Paola Acciai, Banca Carige:

We have three Carige smart branches so far. Two in Genoa and one in Sanremo; one further opening in Genoa.”

 RBI: The main features of the new branches-what do they feature?

Paola Acciai, Banca Carige:

“Carige Smart branches are not traditional banking branches, but digital shops with no bank employees inside. In these shops we can provide all the transactional services available in a traditional teller’s desk in both self-service and in assisted mode for customers and visitors or prospects. Customers for example can manage multiple bank accounts (linked or not to the card you are using) and carry out advanced transactions, cash and coin payments and deposits. For example, users can pay bills or taxes by scanning the document.

In the remote bank areas customers can access via remote assistance to advisory services or buy products. They can receive cards in instant issuing or open a bank account if they are prospects.

There are four digital technology areas within each branch:

  • 24×7 AREA: located at the entrance to the branch, it is equipped with advanced ATMs that are always accessible and makes it possible to carry out a wide range of cash and transactional operations in self-service mode. Accessible every day from 6 a.m. to midnight.
  • RECEPTION AREA: dedicated to receiving and directing users to the stations inside the branch, through the presence of a digital kiosk and qualified personnel (Meeter & Greeters) who support customers in the pre-authentication phase.
  • INTERNAL SELF-SERVICE AREA: workstations reserved for customers allowing basic and advanced transactional operations in self-service mode, through self-assisted cash desks (cash in cash out) capable of providing additional services to those present on external ATMs.
  • REMOTE BANKING AREA ( Bank4Me) : a new channel that allows, through the support of a remote banking operator, both transactional operations and advisory and sales activities for banking and financial products. Remote interaction is made possible by the installation of appropriate peripherals (monitor complete with videoconferencing and video recording system; graphometric tablet for electronic signatures; scanner and printer, readers, self-assisted cash desks).

Inside the branch, from Monday to Friday from 8 am. to 6 pm, there is a fully automated cash desk dedicated to customers which allows them to carry out transactions with cash and coins and enables them to perform many operations in an easy way, for example paying bills with a QR code or paying bills with a simple scan. Cash transactions can also be carried out in assisted mode with the help of a video-linked bank operator, as can consultations via video conference in comfortable, private rooms.

All Banca Carige’s intelligent branches are equipped with the latest Auriga #NextGenBranch solutions, offering integrated customer-facing services across all banking channels and self-service and assisted self-service terminals. In addition, thanks to Auriga’s Bank4Me solution, private areas have been created that allow customers to access services (including advice and sales) independently or via remote assistance.”

RBI: Where is the cost saving-is it on staff numbers for example, technology?

Paola Acciai, Banca Carige:

“With this new digital branch model, the bank is able reduce operating costs by almost 40% compared to traditional branches, with a similar increase in profitability (in terms of the ratio of branch intermediation margin to operating cost).

The bank also aims to optimise its resources, thanks to how a central pool of staff can work remotely in several branches over video links and the fact that, with the digitalisation of cash operations and greater customer autonomy, managers can focus more on higher value-added activities. The Carige Smart framework is composed of one central branch where consultants are physically based that serves all the digital shops located in high potential areas. Inside the Carige Smart Branches there are no bank employees. The only person who is physically present is the Meeter & Greeter who guides clients through the different facilities and provides cards or other supply if needed. The Meeter & Greeter service is outsourced.”

RBI: Timescale-when do they open-how long does it take to plan, trial, open etc?

Paola Acciai, Banca Carige:

“The first Carige Smart branch, launched in Autumn 2021 and it took nine months to plan because of the need to integrate with the legacy systems of the bank, revising some procedures and internal bank processes. This result was possible thanks to an important review of our processes and the flexibility of Auriga’s solutions that are extremely scalable and can adapt to different banking models and customer’s needs. Of course, all these processes tend to be shorter and shorter once the first branches was deployed. In fact, in just one month, three smart branches were opened; two in Genoa and one in Sanremo. Now a fourth one is coming soon in Genoa.”

RBI: How will the bank determine if the branches are a success-what sort of metrics is the bank considering?

Paola Acciai, Banca Carige:

“The main KPIs used to determine if the branches are a success are, first of all, the retention level of customers and their attitude to approach such a model. That is to say if they come back again once they have tried the digital model, but also the ability to adapt to different profiles of customers. For Banca Carige it is important to value the impact on customers’ behaviours including their loyalty and profitability by offering an additional channel to traditional branches that they can appreciate and that represents value for them. In addition to this, the banks also consider the reduction in operating costs and the optimisation in workforce distribution, allocating staff on added value activities such as sales and advisory services.

Digital branches transform the customer journey into an interactive digital banking experience, increasing customer satisfaction. The transformation of customer relations in technological terms in turn, will give further velocity to the bank’s ongoing digital transformation, which will maintain a widespread presence throughout the territory, possibly even extending the service hours.

KPIs

– Reduction in management costs

– Making the most of branch staff

– Interactive digital banking experience

– Increase in customer satisfaction.”

RBI: Do the new branches replace traditional style branches?

Paola Acciai, Banca Carige:

This model is not intended as an alternative to the traditional branch, but as an additional channel to serve customers how, when and where they prefer. It is absolutely not a question of missing out on something but of having a new opportunity to experience the bank. We deeply believe in the value of human touch and relational skills, we don’t think that all interactions can be digitized and automated, unless the customer wants it.

With this solution we want to offer customers an additional channel to the traditional bank, which allows to avoid queues and waiting times with extended opening hours (potentially even 24/7), but with the same level of value-added service offered in a traditional branch.”

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