Despite online banking and automated teller machines, the local branch is far and away the most popular place to do banking, according to a survey scheduled for release today.

“People and their money is a personal issue,” said Phil Wiseman, the vice president of marketing for Maritz Research Inc., which conducted the survey. “They want to see who they’re doing business with. That is why they go to a local branch, versus the telephone or the Internet, where there’s no personal interaction.”

Forty-seven percent of the consumers surveyed said they prefer to conduct their banking transactions at a local bank branch. Only 18% said they prefer to do so at an ATM, and only 4% over the Internet.

Thirty-nine percent said they selected their current bank mostly for its convenient location, while 18% said they chose it on the basis of customer service, and 15% because of the bank’s reputation.

“Banks have one huge thing going for them that they should always try to capitalize on,” he said. “That’s the trust factor.”

The random telephone survey of 1,005 people ages 18 to 54 found branch fans among baby boomers and Generation X.

Approximately 43% of the participants between the ages 18 and 24 said they preferred visiting a branch over ATMs or the Internet, versus 42% of those ages 25 to 34 and 42% of those 45 to 54. However, the highest percentage of those who prefer branches, 55%, was in the 35-to-44 age group.

“When you get into the middle ages, it becomes even more important that you see and interact with the place that is handling all of those things that are near and dear to your life — your retirement money, savings and checking,” Mr. Wiseman said. “At that point, people are looking for signs, quality people and service, that inspire their confidence.

“We encourage banks to look at building a positive business and invest in local bank branches versus spending money in areas that may not produce the personal experience.”

He also urged banks to stop spending money in ways that push people out the door. Online banking and ATMs make the banking process quicker and more efficient, but they decrease banks’ ability to brand themselves and capitalize on their relationships with customers, Mr. Wiseman said.

This is the first banking survey that Maritz Research will make available to the public, and the St. Louis firm plans to conduct it every year, Mr. Wiseman said.

Maritz specializes in private market studies for firms in the financial services, automotive, telecommunications, and hospitality industries. Since 1988 it has also conducted periodic national consumer surveys on such topics such as professional sports, personal finance, the Internet, holiday spending, and vacations.

The industry should sit up and notice what consumers said in the survey about what they want from banks, “versus the banks saying, ‘We want you to do business this way,’ ” he said.

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