“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln

As some of the world’s greatest minds know, strategy is everything. Preparing yourself and your financial institution for success is more important than the execution itself. Everything you do to transform should have a purpose and reason.

Of course, the hard part is figuring out what is a solid strategy that puts your investment to good use and takes your branch experience to the next level. But with the first quarter of 2023 coming to an end, how much progress have you made on your branch improvement plans and strategy?

If you’re like most FIs, you’re probably still struggling to figure out what initiatives are right for your branch network… and for good reason. Comprehending what actually delivers results and what will work for you is an enormous amount of information and choices to digest.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s got to be a solution to simplify the complex (we can’t perform brain surgery, but we are experts on transforming branch networks!).

The secret to anything complex is developing a simple process that clears out the clutter and unites tangible initiatives into a plan of action. It’s possible. To help you get started, here’s an inside look at how the pros (ahem…CFM) tackle this elusive task of developing and executing successful branch transformation strategies.


Step 1. Understanding You

The first step to developing a branch transformation strategy is understanding your financial institution as a whole. To do this, you must perform an in-depth inventory of where you stand today. More specifically, you must answer:

  • What makes you unique or different?
  • What is the client experience like in the branch now?
  • What is getting in the way of optimal service and sales?
  • What are you trying to achieve with a transformation?
  • Who does it right?


This isn’t just an exercise you can perform with one or two people within your financial institution. To get a holistic picture, you need to ask a wide range of folks at different levels–the executive team, retail folks, and even a few branch-level staff. Uncovering these simple things is a fundamental success factor in branch transformation. And it’s a must to differentiate yourself.  

As stated in a 2015 Accenture survey, U.S. consumers want a more personalized retail experience. There’s no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, templated branch transformation solution. You’re unique. Your challenges are different. Your needs are diverse. You must understand yourself first, in order to create the right foundation to improve upon.


Step 2. Research Your Market and Your Competitors

Just as your FI is individual, so is your market. Learning market trends, statistics, facts, and figures is viral. This gives you an edge and a connection to consumers your competition might not obtain or even know about.

Speaking of your competition, you’ll want to know what they’re up to—both good and bad. As an Inc.com article highlighted, “you’ll want to go beyond the Google search.” It’s important to understand competitors’ failures and successes. You want to know what will work for you and what won’t. The Inc.com article also suggested hiring a 3rd party company to do the research for you. But you can also check out CFM’s secret shopper checklist for banks and CUs.


Step 3. Gain Executive Alignment

Once you’ve taken the time to assess your financial institution, it’s important to compile what you’ve learned into a reviewable report. Why? So you can get your entire executive team rowing toward the same goals.

Many times, this is where financial institutions get stuck. Too many people have conflicting opinions, so nothing gets done. In our experience, putting everything together in a concise summary makes it much easier to evaluate goals and objectives and find common ground.



Step 4. Determine Initiatives to Focus On

As too many FIs know, trying to implement all the initiatives out there doesn’t make sense. And with so many out there, deciding on the right ones can be tricky.

Once you understand who you are today, what challenges you are facing, and where you want to go, matching the right solutions and initiatives suddenly becomes easy. It’s no longer wondering what to choose, but merely evaluating initiatives based on your new-found criteria.

And that’s where the magic starts to happen.  With a strong list of objectives and initiatives, you’ve got the foundation of a strategy, and are ready to start to move to the fun part of actually designing the look and feel of your branches.



CFM and DBSI run through these 4 steps with you

You can upgrade your digital and branch design and functionality easily. It’s time to renovate the ins and outs of your branch network to get the very best out of it while decreasing operating costs. Ready to get started on your branch transformation?


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