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By Pete Daugherty | May 23, 2023

The Long Road to Branch Operations Modernization: Are You on the Right Path?

As customer and employee demands continue to evolve, the banks that invest in digital transformation will continue to thrive.

For years, we’ve been watching digital transformations happen across the banking world as banks try to respond to an ever-shifting landscape influenced significantly by two things:

  • Evolving customer demands – Younger generations are increasingly shifting to online banking. They like the convenience of being able to complete everyday transactions on their smartphones. Yet, when it comes to the big financial decisions, like getting a loan to start a business or buy a home, they want to come into a branch. Branches need to offer an efficient and satisfactory customer experience to keep attracting new customers and retaining current ones.

  • A tight labor market – Inflation continues to be high and employee turnover for front-line bank associates has spiked, hitting 23.4% last year. According to Gartner, nearly 50% of front-line workers want greater control over when, where, and how they work. Banks that want to be successful need to be able to provide a work environment where employees feel like their work is meaningful.

From what I can tell, banks are responding well to these challenges. However, there is another area of opportunity where the focus has trailed the opportunity.

Specifically, there is untapped potential to modernize branch operations in a way that makes them even more efficient and gives managers and associates more time to spend with customers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen a lot of progress made by bank leaders to reduce paperwork, automate workflows, and gain an increased understanding of execution and communication so as to make improvements in both areas. Yet, there is more we can do. Much, much more.

Too Many Apps

Earlier this year, we released our Fourth Annual International Branch Banking Employee Survey Report. One of the findings that popped out to me is how much time branch employees still spend on operations tasks.

Branch employees acknowledge that some of the paper and process have been removed and/or streamlined. But all too often this is done using one software application to create a forms library, another to create some workflows, and yet another to track completed tasks/forms. This is a situation in which technology is not the solution bur rather contributing to a lingering problem, with the average branch manager still spending 1.5 hours a week just assigning, managing, and logging tasks and 8.9 hours on managing employee schedules. Furthermore, despite this “digitalization,” branch associates spend on average 13.2 hours a week on administrative and schedule-related tasks. This adds up to 23.6 hours per week per branch taken away from servicing customers. 

Why? Why isn’t technology proving to be the right solution? From where I’m standing, it’s because too many software platforms are being used – and too many of the wrong software platforms. 

Unified Solutions, Unleash Your Branch Associates’ Full Capabilities 

Banks benefit most from a unified branch operations and execution solution that gives leaders the flexibility to easily add/create/modify branch operations forms, create a centralized and personalized task list for each branch/employee, and embed workflows to simply and enhance execution, all without needing to use IT or third-party resources to make changes. 

Finding this right task management solution will help you and your team…

  • Increase efficiency: Having all your administrative and operational tasks assigned, managed, executed, and logged in one place reduces the time it takes for a branch manager or associate to complete a task. It limits distractions and standardizes the steps. This creates huge time savings. In fact, the University of California at Irvine found that on average it takes about 23 minutes for someone to get back to a task after a distraction. Centralizing the work means fewer chances for an associate to get distracted. 

  • Improve flexibility: Branch operations employees like corporate and branch managers have the greatest level of insight into what they need to get the job done. The right solution will give them the tools they need to independently update or create new forms as they analyze insights or identify new needs. Instead of asking for help from what we know are limited IT resources or going back and forth with vendors, they’ll be able to make the most of their insights and improve the customer experience and business outcomes.

  • Accelerate time-to-value: A key measure of success for any tech solution is how quickly your business will see a positive impact. By minimizing the barriers users face to make the most of the software, your branches will be able to maximize the time spent on customer-facing and revenue-generating tasks. The more they get to focus on those, the faster your business will see a return on investment.


When you aren’t using technology built specifically for the problem you’re trying to solve, you’re going to end up with a messy tech stack. Beyond the impacts on branch operations, using multiple software platforms or the wrong software means your corporate branch operations teams are going to have to coordinate multiple different solution vendors/internal resources to understand analytics, make updates or tweaks to forms or processes, or troubleshoot functionality. And beyond the core users of the solution, it means that the IT team’s bandwidth is being stretched thin, which can cause bottlenecks, longer processing times, and a lack of ownership.

Those obstacles add up and each has a cost. Implementations take longer. Training takes longer. Time-to-value takes longer. As you continue your journey to modernize and streamline your branches, having too many apps creates a lack of flexibility and slows down your ability to optimize resources, improve employee experience, and improve operations.

As an industry, we’ve come so far. We’ve weathered global recessions and face continued threats from fintech startups. We’ve been able to do so because when we’re faced with a challenge, we take strong, decisive action to meet the needs of all our stakeholders. 

As customer demands increase and the labor market continues to be tight, you have an opportunity to rise to the occasion by implementing the right kinds of technology that will make life for your employees more fulfilling and power the financial dreams of your customers in a way only you can. So, let’s talk about how the Zebra team can help your team(s) make the right technology decisions so that you can better serve branch customers without making that job harder for branch associates or IT teams.


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