Case study: Piraeus Bank – e-branches
Stefanos Mytilineos, deputy general manager, digital business retail banking, branch network & deposits, Piraeus Bank Group, shares the bank’s experience of bringing full digital banking experience to its brick-and-mortar branches.
Digitalisation is changing many aspects of the world around us and at Piraeus Bank, Greece’s largest bank, we are at the forefront of digitalisation in retail banking in Greece (and beyond) with our fully automated e-branches.
Since December 2016 we have opened three e-branches in Athens, as part of our strategy to increase efficiency through the use of technology. E-branches bridge the gap between physical branches and online/mobile banking with full automation within a homely environment, and staff to welcome and assist customers who may be less technology-savvy.
E-branches, which cater primarily to the needs of individuals and businesses, are the first of their kind in Greece. In addition, the unique design of the remote cashier service, which connects customers to an experienced cashier via a video call, is a great innovation. Currently customers can perform 90% of their transactions in this way.
In addition, e-branches offer significantly longer opening hours during the week and on Saturdays than traditional branches, and customers can access their deposits, make withdrawals and payments 24 hours a day, as well as obtain instant prepaid gift cards, update their passbooks, register for internet banking and access video conferencing enabled meeting rooms until 21:00.
While researching the e-branch concept we were keen to ensure that the e-branch would be as welcoming as possible to customers who may not use online or mobile banking. We did this by setting the machines flush into the walls around a familiar living room style area, with sofas, coffee machines and mobile device charging points. This homely environment, created in combination with an Italian design company, also features low-level lighting and a bespoke, fresh scent, making it unlike automated branches in other countries.
Results exceeding expectations
Our three e-branches are performing much better than expected. They are used by over 37,000 users per month making over 32,000 transactions and have accelerated the migration of smaller, lower value transactions from manual processing at traditional branches nearby to automated processing. After seven months of operation our e-branches are processing 84% of the volume of transactions undertaken in nearby traditional branches.
This has freed up staff in our traditional branches to focus on higher value products such as personal loans and mortgages and given our customers greater choice and a more efficient service. E-branches also have an educational role, helping our older customers to become more comfortable with digital banking, acting as an intermediate step to online and mobile banking. To date 33 per cent of users of our remote cashier are aged 60 or over.
Further expansion: geographically, products and usability
Following the success of our three e-branches in Athens we plan to open two further e-branches elsewhere in Greece the upcoming months. In addition, we are working on introducing higher value products, such as mortgages, via the remote cashier.
We are also increasing the usability of the e-branches for all of our customers, for example through enabling remote banking via video link, and for marginalised groups, such as those people who are blind or mute. These groups usually encounter difficulties when trying to access banking products and services in traditional branches in Greece. An example of this is the requirement for blind people to have two witnesses in order to undertake banking transactions, but with remote cashiers in e-branches everything is recorded so they can undertake transactions independently.
We are now working with national organisations for the blind and mute to increase accessibility further. We have added braille to the Remote Cashier service and we plan to add braille to the ATMs, while there is guidance in the e-branch by the facilitators. In addition, we are also working with existing Piraeus Bank employees in our retail bank who are fluent in sign language to make them available via remote cashier.
In summary, Piraeus Bank’s fully automated and welcoming e-branches are the first of their kind in Greece and given their success, in terms of the number of transactions and the positive feedback from customers, we will be establishing more throughout Greece. E-branches demonstrate how technology can be used to improve customer experience, to benefit society and to improve efficiency.