Banks still rely on branches to start accounts

Most types of accounts can't be originated online

Banks long ago embraced online banking for transactions. But to start an account? You still need to go into a branch for that, according to a survey of 156 North American financial institutions by Celent.

The financial information research and consulting company surveyed financial institution executives in October 2014, asking them, "Is your institution selling and originating new products digitally? Select which options are available to your customers."

Checking and savings accounts and mortgages were the only products that a majority of institutions let consumers initiate online -- and only if they use a traditional desktop or laptop computer.The ability to originate an account on a mobile device remains in infancy, with only small fractions of institutions allowing the process to begin online.

Credit or prepaid cards could be originated online at only 45 percent of the institutions.

Celent looked at online account origination as part of its research into the abundance of brick-and-mortar bank branches. Its research found that between 2000 and 2010, other retail sectors trimmed back on building stores as consumers moved their shopping online. But in that span, the density of bank branches actually grew, from 230 branches per million Americans to 270 branches.

"Celent looked at a dozen other retail categories and couldn't find a single one (except banks) that grew store density over the same period," senior analyst Bob Meara wrote.

See related: Mobile banking coming up from behind, More infographics

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Updated: 03-25-2019