One minute we’re hearing that the “branch of the future” is actually not a branch, but something virtual. The next we’re hearing that banks are increasing branch presence, as reported in The Financial Brand.

Which is the best route? Naturally, it depends on the size of the bank, geographic penetration, customer preference and other factors. More branches, fewer branches, and branches of the future are secondary strategies for most community banks. These approaches clearly favor larger banking competitors.

Community and smaller regional banks can enjoy an advantage over the big players, IF they employ local area marketing to make the most of community assets, “own” their territory and maximize their standings in the neighborhoods they serve.

When the bank is closely connected to the local community and a partner in the growth efforts of the people and businesses it serves, that’s when mutually beneficial growth can take place. It’s more than making donations to local charities; it’s also providing the tools to help its neighbors and customers thrive and grow. This is job that is perfect for the community bank and a strategy the big banks just don’t want to attempt, despite their statements to the contrary.

What are your thoughts on community banks employing branch-specific local marketing versus following the big banks into an arena that favors the bigs?