This month's Soundoff was prompted by a recent Coopers & Lybrand study that suggested retail staff reductions might need to approach 50% in 10 years. The study was based on interviews with 50 banks in more than a dozen countries. Executives said changing customer needs will force banks to provide electronic services "anytime, anywhere, anyhow."

* Kenneth Mathis Partner, Coopers & Lybrand Consulting, New York Based on what our clients in the United States and around the world have told us, everybody sees a dramatic change. On the one hand, it's flippant to say 50% because who knows? You can't base revenue growth just on reducing costs and reducing head count. Nobody really knows the answer, but retail banking is going to be different than it is today. We may hit upon a structure that says we need to triple our outbound telephone call volume. We may then take all our retail staff and put them in a telephone call center. I'm very uncomfortable saying 50%. It is going to be a material number - maybe 30% or 40%. It may be 70%. We're more comfortable saying we need to start with the customer and from that determine what your distribution channels are, what products you want to offer, and what market segments you want to go after.

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