A branch opening on Saturdays is not taboo for Commerzbank private customer board member Thomas Schaufler. “We are a service company. If customer demand for the branches to open on Saturdays becomes very high, we would also think about it,” said the manager of the German Press Agency, who has been in office for a good year.

First, Commerzbank is trying to close gaps in its branch network, which has meanwhile been significantly thinned out, with twelve so-called advice centers and one at the home location of the online subsidiary Comdirect in Quickborn, Schleswig-Holstein. In these centers, the bank offers advice by telephone from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.

“The extended opening times in the advice centers are an important first step in the right direction,” said Schaufler. “And we will then see from the reactions of the customers: How well is that accepted.” The aim is to show customers what is possible in the advice center. “We’re still struggling with coffee, we can’t deliver it to your home yet, but we will offer the same quality of banking services to customers, regardless of location,” said the Board of Management.

Focus on personal advice

Schaufler calculated that almost 70 percent of the issues that customers come to branches for can be dealt with online. “As Commerzbank, we have to see that our systems become even simpler, more convenient, and more self-explanatory so that customers can take advantage of them.”

It is expressly not a question of preventing customers from visiting the branch in order to close other locations, emphasized Schaufler: “What we could save in terms of service time, we would like to convert into personal advice.”

Commerzbank, which had around 1,000 branches nationwide before the pandemic, radically changed course under new management at the beginning of last year and decided to downsize the network from 790 to 450 locations. The closure of a further 50 locations was recently initiated.

“At the moment I feel comfortable with the setup of around 400 branches,” said Schaufler. “Of course, there can always be adjustments in one direction or the other. But that doesn’t mean that there will always be fewer branches. It can also go in the other direction at certain points.”

Schaufler: Lost fewer customers than expected

With the cuts in the branch network, which were decided before Schaufler’s move from the Austrian Erste Group to Commerzbank, the Frankfurt institute did not take all customers sufficiently with it from the manager’s point of view. “The question of how many customers we will lose as a result of the conversion cannot yet be answered conclusively,” said the shoveler. “But I can say that we are currently well below the assumptions that we expected for such a radical change.”

The bank wants to regain trust by specifically addressing customers who are standing in line: “We are now catching up on what was not possible during the pandemic: offering supportive measures and showing how online banking works .”

The surge in digital offerings that could be observed during the pandemic has flattened out again, Schaufler noted. “Currently, the number of branch visits is even increasing again. We didn’t expect that.”

Schaufler doesn’t believe in lure offers to attract customers. “I want to score points with Commerzbank with advice and service, not with teasers. It’s about customers using our services in the long term.” According to the latest figures, Commerzbank and Comdirect together look after around eleven million customers. “We will organize growth with what we can offer sustainably,” said Schaufler. “A free culture is not sustainable.”