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24 posts categorized "Banks"

April 08, 2014

From Now On, I'm Paying for Everything with Snow Tires.

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by Ron Daly

I was browsing through creditunions.com when I came across this story about a young man (or woman?) who is using GameStop as his bank. He buys video games in advance of their release with his paycheck, sells back the hold credit when he needs cash, and keeps the cycle going. GameStop holds his money, gives a little back, and affords him all the benefits of membership, including "exclusive content". 

I'm not a video gamer, so all the "pre-order" and "exclusive content" talk doesn't mean much to me. But I get what he's going for, and I love it! Gee, why didn't I consider that before now? I'm getting in on the action. I want to buy a few things on order and just hang on to them until I need their cash equivalent. Let's see, what's something I wouldn't mind having around the house or garage?

I got it! Snow tires!

It's the perfect scheme. I'm going to buy a few dozen sets of snow tires, pile them up in the garage, and return them to the manufacturer in mint condition when I'm short on cash! Who doesn't want a set of snow tires? They're so useful...when it's snowing, that is. And when it's not snowing, just put plants and stuff in them, I guess.

See? Why would anyone want to do business with a dumb old credit union or bank when we could just buy expensive things to establish an "account" with a store and then return them when we need...you know, real money.

Holy smokes...I think I just figured out how to make this thing even more simple. I'm just going to pay for things in snow tires! Naturally, everyone will accept snow tires. They'll have to invent new ATMs that dispense snow tires! The value depreciates a bit in the summer, but come the first blizzard this winter I'll be a rich man!

...Oh, wait, never mind. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

We invented money because bartering is too hard. We invented deposit accounts so that your flimsy money had a place to stay safe, outside your home and not on your person. We invented deposit insurance to hedge our bets and to ensure that people's money would be safe. We invented ATMs so you could get the money quickly and debit so you didn't have to use cash and chip-and-PIN so you didn't have to worry about swiping away your identity. We keep improving this system by adding both security and convenience. Sure, you can quibble about inflation and bitcoin and Tetris and Mario, but we've got a good thing going here. Why would anyone opt-out?

The article I mentioned above outlines a few reasons why this misguided gamer might take a different approach to his finances.

This consumer expects branches to stay open later, he wants shorter lines, and he wants low to nonexistant fees. Many credit unions meet these demands, it's just a matter of informing the public. Financial education and community outreach are pillars of the credit union way, this poster is a prime example of a disenfranchised member who needs to be shown the light. With alternatives abound, awareness of the credit union and its connection to community is all the more important.

How strange that, in a world where you can search for anything with a few taps on a smart phone, this guy still couldn't find a credit union or bank that suited all his needs. Is it a failure of branding, of advertising, or of the system at large? Is distrust in and distaste with banks so prevalent that people will trust their hard-earned money to their favorite brands for safekeeping?

Until this guy gets a "no more sell-backs" notice, I'm guessing he'll keep at it. But good luck paying for an emergency car repair or an expensive bill with a bunch of X-Box games.

And I don't think I'm going to switch all my money over snow tires after all. I like my money like I like my history museums: government funded, easily accessible and full of pictures of bygone presidents.

July 23, 2013

Today's "Don't Tax My Credit Union" Tuesday: In the Rhetoric War, Can CUs Win?

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"Big Tuesdays" come along so rarely it's hard to remember the last one. Election Day? New Year's Day was on a Tuesday this year. Those are the two that come to mind, thus far in 2013. But according to CUNA, today is, indeed, a Big Tuesday. For today is "Don't Tax My Credit Union" Tuesday.

Don't Tax My Credit Union is CUNA's answer to an aggressive press-blitz by the ABA. Both sides are trying to sway the opinion of the public - CUNA wants members to speak up and for non-members to see that CUs are the "little guys", there to help communities and small businesses. The ABA wants the public to see credit unions as a bunch of tax cheats that are harming the economy and causing a budget shortfall.

I find it ironic that the ABA wants to paint credit unions' tax exemption as a harm to the national budget. Take a look at the ABA's "Tax Credit Unions" page:

Since 2001, credit unions have increased the deficit by not paying an estimated $20.5 billion in federal income taxes.

Wow! That's some bold text. And that's also a big dollar figure. But let's read that first part about "Since 2001". That roughs out to about $1.7 billion/year for the past twelve years.  B of A got $45 billion in bailout funds...more than double what credit unions have "not paid". What's more, B of A didn't pay any taxes in 2010 and has leveraged its many loopholes to avoid paying in the years that followed. And that's just one of the banks the ABA says isn't getting a fair deal because of the CU tax exemption. 

Is anyone else confused as to how you can pay no taxes, get a bailout, receive government subsidies, neglect small businesses and financial literacy...and complain that a group of FIs that makes up 6% of the market is hurting America?

Hold on, I'm going to go bang my head against a wall and see if it makes sense after that...

Nope, it's still a joke of a premise. And now, I have a headache. Thanks, Big Banks.

Two stories. One by credit unions, one by banks. The trillion-dollar question: who'll win out? Naturally, we'd all like to think that credit unions will protect their tax-exempt status. It shouldn't be discounted that CUNA and its credit unions are fighting a small-scale war against an organization with a warchest that is...well, larger than a lot of credit unions. Credit unions and their employees have picked up the charge, but a quick social search on the #DontTaxMyCU hashtag doesn't show a lot of average folks sharing the word...plenty of trade groups, leagues and CU accounts, but very few actual members. Do we still have a shot at getting the public on our side? 

We'd better be telling a compelling story. "We'll lose our advantage" is a bad argument to make. "We are here to help our people and boost small businesses - losing exemption will ruin both" is much better. If you have a great campaign related to Don't Tax My Credit Union, send it to CUNA so they might share. And if you care about credit unions, tell your friends, convince your family, and stand behind your CU's ability to serve your community.

Take action by contacting your legislators and telling them - "Don't Tax My Credit Union".

April 10, 2013

Let's cut down the theme song and get to the bar.

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by Ron Daly

I used to love watching Cheers. A funny show with a great cast, Cheers lasted through eleven season, a female lead change (are you a Diane fan or a Rebecca fan?) and thousands of shouts of "NORM!"

Sometime in the middle of its run, Cheers cut down its theme song and opening credits ("Where Everybody Knows Your Name" is stuck in your head now, isn't it?) to get to the show faster. Why waste time? Squeeze in more show, a few more jokes, a couple more beers - don't bother with the song we all know the words to anyway. Get to the point. 

I bring it up because I just read a bit of ON Innovation by author Terry Jones. In it, he talks about how the nature of gathering information has changed. Customers are walking into buying situations with a heaping helping of information and prep. From the book: 

My realtor friend told me the other day, there is no such thing as a "First Showing" of a house anymore. "Every showing is a second showing as all my customers have whittled their list down online and have seen every house already!"

Customers no longer need you for information, they need you for advice! "Actually sir, this color looks better on you", "I drove this model for three months and got about 21 mpg, so that is what you can really expect".

Interesting. As information becomes more and more accessible, people spend more time reading and researching major purchases. It theorhetically makes a sale easier. Theorhetically.

But as a person who sells things and a veteran of the CU industry, I have to wonder about how effective "more information" really is.

Let's say I'm looking into a product. For argument's sake, let's say it's a power washer. I start by searching online for "power washers". It goes from there to Amazon, then to home improvement store websites. I look at reviews ("stars", average prices, write-ups, etc.) and then I check out prices across all the websites I've visited. If I can find any, I'll grab a coupon or two. If I'm convinced, I'll buy online. If I need to look at the whole affair in person, I'll head to the stores. I make my purchase, start power washing everything and, pretty soon, my house is sparkly clean. And my neighbor's house. And his boat. Okay, so I got carried away. 

But that's an item. That's not a credit union. 

If I'm shopping for a car loan, how do I make a choice? Is it anything more than rate? If I'm out hunting, can I read reviews of the bank or credit union I'm using? Do I start with my current lender and work my way out? Can I go "kick the tires"? And how much information can I really gather?

I take three notes away from this: 

  1. "The Best Foot Forward Approach" - Is the information people are collecting to make a purchase/account opening decision the most useful information? And how do you determine that? Getting feedback on the lending process is a great idea. Talking with members, making notes, figuring out where the hard-to-understand ideas are - that helps prevent confusion in further one-on-one advising situations. And speaking of "advising"...
  2. "What's Your Take?" - Are tellers and MSRs familiar with the experiences that drive a member's questions? How familiar are mortgage specialists with buying a home? Have they purchased one of their own? Experience is a great teacher and opinion does matter.
  3. "Tow the Line" - Is everyone in the organization on the same page when it comes to answering questions? Do they have all the most important information at hand? If they can't answer a question right away, how quickly can they get that answer to the member? Good training and a dash of technology can assure that members can get the right answer from anyone at any time and that a qualified representative can answer any lingering questions. 

So, no, don't bother with the full theme song. Get to the good stuff - answered questions, thoughtful advice and opinion, and, eventually, the deal.

And if making your way in the world today takes everything you've got, well...you oughta go where everybody knows your name.

February 07, 2013

The Pocket Merger: Your Phone is Becoming Your Wallet. Will Your CU Be Prepared?

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by Ron Daly 

I'm an iPhone guy. When most of my peers were pecking away at a Blackberry hard-key, I was tapping and swiping my touchscreen wonder-phone. I'm currently working with an iPhone 4s, having bequeathed my old phone to one of my kids (who dropped her iPhone and shattered the screen). 

As someone who sits watching at the cross section of technology and finance, I'm fascinated by the idea of the "mobile wallet". I read a little more about it every day and, despite all my reading, I'm not quite sure what to think. Yes, interest is growing, but it's still small. Yes, the tech advancements are impressive, but also scattered between the people who were already handling payments (Visa, Mastercard and the like) and the start-ups (or is it "upstarts"?) out to stake their claim (Paypal, Square, Isis). Cheap, plastic doodads jut out of your phone that let you physically swipe a credit card with your smart phone. Suddenly, your smart phone's a wallet AND a cash register.

And a bank account? Time will tell, I suppose, if the merger between your phone and your wallet puts CUs at risk.

I pulled a few recent articles about the topic that I think are worth reading: 

Mobile Monday: Square Wallet Provides a Sneak Peek at the Future of Proximity Payment (Jim Bruene, NetBanker, full story here)

"And all your previous transactions, with full itemized receipts, are available within the Square app... It's truly the future of payments available for a sneak peek today. I highly recommend giving the Square Wallet a try."

Are Bankers Ready for The Bank 3.0 Reality? (Jim Marous, JD Power Banking Blog, full story here)

"[Quote from Brett King] The problem is that there are so many start-ups in the financial services and payments space that are impacting the way people view financial services that significant technology projects need to be undertaken by traditional banks just to keep pace. Investing in a technology layer, combined with the new costs of compliance, will be a challenge for smaller institutions. That doesn’t eliminate the potential for smaller organizations to collaborate or to build partnerships to respond to market realities, but I don’t see this happening."

Will You Be Ready When Mobile Wallets Turn Banking Upside Down? (Jeffry Pilcher, The Financial Brand, full story here)

"No matter what consumers today say they think of mobile wallets today, mobile wallets will triumph. Why? Because mobile wallets will simplify consumers’ lives in very personal and relevant ways. For starters, they eliminate the nuisance of thick, cluttered wallets. They also reduce the transmission of germs, because they eliminate  plastic cards, pens/signatures, touchscreens and keypads."

Mobility Matters: The Mobile Wallet Wars (Robert McGarvey, cutimes.com, full story here)

"If you are skeptical about digital wallets know that the skeptics may outnumber believers, at least among financial services executives. Forward motion towards wider wallet adoption has seemingly gotten just about nowhere in the past year. Few consumers have ever used one, few mobile devices have a digital wallet capability, and not many more retailers are equipped to accept them anyway.

But ask the experts and their advice is consistent: ignore digital wallets at your own risk because they are the future.

That clock is ticking."

Stop Spewing Mobile Wallet BS (The irrepressible Ron Shevlin, at Snarketing 2.0; full story here)

"If I've learned anything about doing consumer research it’s this: You can’t ask consumers their opinions about things that they don’t know. So, feel free to publicize your research about which mobile wallets are most popular with consumers, if you want, but I’m not buying any of it."

What are your feelings on the topic? Are you eager to pay for things with your smartphone? Think it's trouble brewing? Tell us more in the comments. 

September 20, 2012

GUEST POST: Innovation Unveiled In The Big Apple

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Alix Patterson is the chief operating officer of Callahan & Associates and serves on Callahan’s board of directors. She oversees Callahan’s media division and leads strategic planning sessions for credit unions. 

In this article, which originally ran on CreditUnions.com, Alix shares her thoughts about DigitalMailer's My Virtual StrongBox product - and her thoughts on the only company to present at FinovateFall 2012 that has direct ties to the credit union industry.

___

Could you deliver all the information needed to set your institution apart from its peers in seven minutes or less? Could you trust your services, people, and products to perform in a live demo scenario, with all the movers and shakers of the financial industry looking on?

That was the challenge for presenters at last week’s New York Finovate conference. These individuals braved a judgmental Twittersphere (the caffeine was flowing freely) as well as technical issues at the venue to share their dreams with potential venture capitalists and financial institution partners.

While credit unions from across the country were in attendance, the second day of Finovate brought the only credit union-owned presenter - Virginia-based DigitalMailer - to the stage. There, CEO Ron Daly showcased the company’s latest product innovation, MyVirtual Strong Box. This solution lets consumers store personal records virtually with the financial institutions they already trust, instead of relying on third-parties whose usage and ownership policies could be a future point of contention.

My Virtual StrongBox integrates with a financial institution’s home banking platform, providing the first layer of security for members wary of using "the cloud" to store their personal documents. Then, My Virtual StrongBox encrypts each individual file as it is uploaded, ensuring that information will only be unlocked by the uploading party.

From the financial institution side, My Virtual StrongBox looks to be not only a retention tool but a potential revenue generator as well.

Credit unions can deploy a freemium business model with My Virtual StrongBox. By offering an initial amount of storage and then letting members upgrade for a fee, credit unions can generate new non-interest income.  Both Northwest FCU and DCU launched the product with an initial offering of 100MB free and members have already started to upgrade after hitting their maximum space allotment.

In good Finovate-fashion, Ron and his team also unveiled a brand new iPad version of the service, featuring all the capabilities of the regular offering in portable, intuitive tablet interface. 

DigitalMailer’s presentation provided a great reminder that credit unions and CUSOs are often at the leading edge of financial innovation. With any luck, next year’s conference will feature even more cooperative institutions bringing their big ideas into the limelight.

_________

This article appeared originally on CreditUnions.com and is the intellectual property of CALLAHAN & ASSOCIATES. No part may be reproduced, transmitted, distributed, published, or otherwise com­municated, in printed form or electronically, without the express written permission of CALLAHAN & ASSOCIATES.  

June 06, 2012

My Crazy Ex-Bank: What Some FIs Are Doing to Keep You from Leaving

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by Ron Daly 

We all know someone with a "crazy ex" story. Some people just don't handle breakups well and they end up taking it out on the other person. Hopefully, you've never run into a crazy ex yourself...but you might wind up with one if you try and move your money from a big bank to a credit union. 

The "big guys" are going out of their way to "maximize breakage", as Seth Godin says. Some of them are charging big fees for closing an account you've had less than six months. Some of them are making it expensive to do an EFT or a wire transfer. Most of them are making the process itself hard to understand. From the article above:

Consumers Union also found that the account disclosures and websites for all of the banks surveyed failed to provide consumers with clear account closing policies. In the fall of 2011, the consumer advocacy group said it sent 16 secret shoppers to the banks’ branches to ask how to close an account. Some shoppers received conflicting information on how to do so.

I'll bet they did. 

Are the big banks really crazy? No. They know that if a process is difficult enough, you'll give up trying. If you can't close an account easily online, you'll go to the branch. If the process keeps you at the branch longer than a few minutes, you'll get antsy and leave. Either you'll break down and quit or you'll pay the fee to leave - if you feel strongly enough about the latter, you'll pay not to do the former. 

Continue reading "My Crazy Ex-Bank: What Some FIs Are Doing to Keep You from Leaving" »

May 30, 2012

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? Four Good Ideas for Getting Locally Known

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by Ron Daly 

Album.peopleneighborhood

[image via the Muppet Wiki]

It's time for you to take down that big, scary, Lex Luthor-esque map of the world you have in your office. You know, the one with all the big push-pins in it showing how you're going to take over the world?

If you're reading this, you're a credit union person. Global domination should be off your agenda. Why?

  1. It's a tad bit frightening and we're not necessarily a terrifying bunch.
  2. It's impractical
  3. It's improbable

I've seen credit unions with extra-inclusive fields of membership. I've seen credit unions that have branches in far-flung corners of the globe. But let's be realistic - where are you?

Where Are You? 

It's a big question. For years, we were trying to puff ourselves up to seem big and impressive. Now, we need to recognize that "local" isn't a bad thing - it might be our saving grace. 

Many CUs are repositioning at this moment, trying to remind locals that they have alternatives to their community banks and the big banks. "If you live, work, or worship..." covers a lot of ground, so get out there and show people what you're doing in, and for, that area. 

How? Here are four "good start" ideas: 

Continue reading "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? Four Good Ideas for Getting Locally Known" »

January 11, 2012

Suze Orman gets into the prepaid card game -- and out of the good graces of the CU Industry?

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by Ron Daly 

 Remember a while back when Suze Orman went to bat for the NCUA as an "educator"? She wanted to get the word out about how NCUA served the same function for CUs as the FDIC did for banks. A noble goal, and helpful for those who are confused about what all those letters mean on the bottoms of loan promos and direct mail pieces. It raised the question, "Is Suze Orman the right spokesperson for CUs?" 

Well, it's a false dilemma, really. See, Suze Orman wasn't hired to promote CREDIT UNIONS, she was hired to promote NCUA and their capacity as the insurer of cu deposits. But people read "Suze Orman" and "NCUA" and interpreted that as "Credit Union Spokeswoman".

Which is unfortunate, because Suze Orman just decided to set herself up as a prepaid card magnate. Click here to read about it on US News and World Report's website.

I really don't know how to make heads or tails of this. Sure, Suze Orman has a lot of brand equity, specifically with the "underbanked", but to lend that equity to a prepaid card? She's taken the road the Kardashian sisters weren't able to walk a little over a year ago; the only difference being that Orman actually seems to understand how money works and the Kardashians...well, the less said, the better.

An Associated Press story claims that the aim of the card - which Orman has (reportedly) already pumped $1 million of her own money into in development costs -  is to boost the credit scores of users through a deal with TransUnion. This new breed of credit score would reward users who previously paid for things with cash or other prepaid cards, but Business Insider doesn't seem to think so.

According to the PR Newswire press release, the card comes with "Suze Orman's advice and tips on personal finance," (which are delivered...how?) and is also "insured up to $250,000. The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC". So, there's a bank involved somewhere along the line, but a few steps removed...

I guess the question is, has this move soured your opinion of Suze? Some of the choice tweets on the topic I read over yesterday and today: 

Screen shot 2012-01-11 at 12.53.15 PM

Yes, much has been made of the $3 monthly fee, which is actually low compared to cards like the Kardashian Kard. But a card that preaches better finance management while taking out $3/month to "cover costs"? Would "Pre-Card Suze Orman" approve of that? 

Screen shot 2012-01-11 at 4.12.06 PM
Ron Shevlin from the Aite Group always has great links and thoughtful reads on the topics of the day, and he found one by Ron Lieber in the Times. In it, Orman swears she won't be making much money on the card and certainly doesn't want to be making money off of the "99 percent's backs" (her words). She insists that if the rates increase dramatically, she'll kill off the product. But surely there's some reward for her, considering how much she's already invested...what is it?

Screen shot 2012-01-11 at 12.55.22 PM

This reaction is one of the more damning, in my opinion. Ondine Irving has worked with Suze Orman in the past to get the word out about credit union credit card programs and has been a pretty big Suze Orman "stumper". She's not happy with these new developments. I sense she won't be the only one. 

I'm eager to hear your comments on this in the comment section. 

 

October 03, 2011

Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight - Why Cutting Marketing is a Bad Idea

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by Ron Daly 

I'm sure you've heard the old adage "never bring a knife to a gun fight". Good advice - even though I've never been in a gun fight, I know I'll never be bringing a knife. Why? Because you're not only under-prepared, you're going up against someone with a huge advantage. 

I bring this up because of an article in the CU Journal by Paul Lucas, a branding consultant who's worked with a number of CUs and companies (including my own) on their branding. Based on a recent Bankrate article about what consumers shop for in a financial institution, Paul came up with some pretty interesting conclusions about the role branding and marketing play.

From Paul's article:

...17% of shoppers start looking for a new bank because of dissatisfaction with rates and fees, but only 4% of them choose their new bank because of rates and fees.

Why does that happen?

Because shoppers are swayed by brand image, advertising and bank branches in convenient locations. Perhaps this disconnect helps explain why more people are changing banks more often.

How did they choose which institutions to shop? The selection drivers lead me to believe that brand awareness is the key, and of course that's heavily driven by brand image. The big banks get strong awareness by buying it.

Paul also mentioned that BofA spent $2 Billion dollars on marketing in 2010. Two. Billion. Dollars. Spent by one bank. In one year.

What percentage of your budget goes into marketing? Paul makes a good point: 

The banking industry spends around 5% of income on marketing. If the credit union industry spent 5% using smart, targeted creative we could increase awareness, making us more competitive against banks.

Instead of spending more, however, many credit unions have cut the very things that sustain brand image: advertising, branch maintenance and member services staff. It's a downward spiral that left spinning long enough can take a credit union out of the game.

While CUs might have it where it counts (low fees, better rates, more specialized service), every inch of ground they gain gets thrown out the window when they don't pay to make it known.

Now for my two cents -- You really want the business? Time to start asking for it. Maybe the "gun" you bring to the fight isn't $2 Billion, but as any shooter will tell you, firepower's not the only important factor - having a better aim means a LOT. Time to really focus in on the member/potential member. What do they need? What do they want? What do they fear? 

One other important fact from Paul's article says the main reason people start shopping for a new FI is because of a shift in their life's circumstances. Maybe it's time you started wondering what those circumstances are...and how you can be there to help. 

I welcome your feedback in our comment section. 

 

 

September 21, 2011

Taking the "Bank" out of "Banking": How the Steve Jobs Decade Has Changed Finance

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by Ron Daly

Brett King over at Bank 2.0 posted an article titled "How Steve Jobs Killed the Branch". There's been a lot of talk recently about Steve Jobs stepping down as the CEO of Apple and moving into a more private role in the company. Tim Cook has taken Jobs' place as CEO and the black-turtlenecked dynamo has quietly stepped aside, due to his health concerns. The news of this change sent a shockwave through the Internet as Apple fans and tech fans alike shared their shock and their appreciation for a man that has many times over beaten the odds (go read about Steve Jobs' impact and listen to his 2005 commencement speech here. Very good stuff.)

Brett's article focuses on one important aspect of Jobs' legacy. From the post

This is not the sole legacy of Steve Jobs and the team at Apple, but when we look back on banking in 10-20 years time when branches have disappeared, we will attribute the destruction of the traditional value chain of banking to the death of the ‘store’. Not all stores are destroyed, of course, but where you have goods or services that can be easily digitized or where distribution does not absolutely require physicality, then the value chain is disrupted. The two big upsets in this evolution of the store were really Amazon’s destruction of the book store, and iTunes destruction of video and music stores.

I think Brett has a point there. The Kindle really did a number on bookstores and paper books alike (the Borders down the street from us is going, going...). The iPod destroyed all the Tower Records and Sam Goody's of the world because, finally, you didn't need a twenty-disc CD changer in your car - you just needed a little rectangle with a wheel. And why? 

Because paperbacks and hardcovers were just a means of distributing the words in a book. CDs and Casettes were just a way to store the music until it hit your ears. The medium wasn't more than the message. In some cases, it was much, MUCH less. 

As technology has advanced, our dependence on cash and checks has diminished. Debit and credit are pushing out cash and NFC is threatening cards - we'll keep making strides away from the physical aspects of money management until branches are almost obsolete. Why? Because money's not a physical thing anymore. At least, it doesn't have to be. And you don't need a bank to do all your banking.

When you can:

  • Open an account online
  • Deposit remotely online
  • Apply for a loan AND get approved online
  • Resolve NSFs and low-fund situations online
  • Transfer money between accounts online 
  • Budget online
  • Buy online

...why go to a branch to get things done? 

Steve Jobs didn't exactly kill the branch. But he certainly didn't stop the bleeding.