Retail has long been considered "the jewel in the banking crown," the one area of unquestioned profitability and the creator of considerable shareholder value over the course of a complete interest rate cycle.

Yet retail banking, and especially its branch component, which has historically been the source of most of that shareholder value, is threatened with what some have described as a downward spiral of declining profitability. One reason is that the branch-based business at present satisfies only one or at most two of the five basic financial need of the consumer.

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