Still Banking on Branches

Without doubt there is a lot of doubt in the banking industry today.

The Silicon Valley Bank debacle – and that’s what it was – is forcing the industry to re-assess itself. As a result, banks and credit unions throughout America are re-calibrating their assumptions about how they invest, their liquidity, what loans they pursue/accept, possible increased regulatory scrutiny, and how to separate themselves from the dark cloud cast by SVB and others. Each of these are huge operational and communications issues unto themselves.

For bank customers, the issues are a little more cut-and-dried. They want to know three basic things:

1. Is my money safe?
2. If I’m qualified, can I still get a loan from this organization?
3. Are there people here that I can meet with in person whom I trust?

Even prior to the fall of SVB, Rubicon was experiencing consistent interest from our credit union and community bank customers to expand their branch networks. Now that interest has risen to another level. There are two main reasons why:

1. Research has proven to our clients that the physical presence of their branches is vital to the growth of their customer and membership base.

2. With so much uncertainty surrounding banks and “non-banks,” branches still represent the physical manifestation of a customer/member’s money. That’s why, when word got out that SVB was on the ropes, customers got in their cars and went directly to its HQ and branches. They did so because, to many people, THAT’S where their money is and THAT’S where the people responsible for it can be yelled at. Uh, I mean, communicated to.

So, despite warnings from so many “experts” who confidently predicted the impending demise of bank branches due to the pandemic, guess again. This isn’t to say that many retail branches aren’t closing because they are. But in the community banking and CU world, net branches are expanding.


A key reason – make that the key reason — retail branches close is because the wrong locations were selected in the first place. And they were selected because the real estate brokers that retail banks typically turn to for guidance think that good bank branch locations are no different than good fast-food locations. Just find a spot with lots of traffic and lease or purchase the space.

I’m not exaggerating.

As a result, bank branches fail, operating costs rise, and customers seek other options. That’s why Rubicon does things differently. A major difference is in how we assist our credit union and community bank clients to make well-informed portfolio decisions. We do it in two key ways:

Differentiator #1 — Our Focus:Assisting community banks, CU’s, and wealth management firms with their real estate portfolios is our business. Period. We are not simply transactional brokers and market generalists. We earn our keep through a laser-focused understanding of the banking segment and leave the leasing of restaurants and retail stores to others.

Differentiator #2 — Our Focus: Over the past decade, we have curated a proprietary real estate research platform that is un-matched in the industry. Through RUBICON REVEAL, we can craft portfolio solutions based on our clients’ unique goals, resources, and realities in literally every market in the country. We call the process, the Rubicon Score.


The Rubicon Score process begins with an 80-question survey. In it, our clients provide us with key input regarding their growth priorities, ideal future customers/memberships and selected market areas-of-interest. But going far beyond locating potential intersections and shopping centers, our integrated databases enable us to reveal both wide-angle and close-up views of information that lead to defendable assessments and well-informed decision-making. For example …

Market Profile Assessments

Most local brokers assess a market based on current real estate costs/rates and availabilities. That’s low-hanging fruit and does little to accurately assess a market’s future viability in ways that align with the priorities our clients share with us. Our assessments include:

  • Projected five-year population growth
  • Planned development-by-type (Housing, offices, retail, schools)
    • Planned or near-completion status
  • Major employers
  • Employment (Type and level)
  • Economic drivers (Business & industry development initiatives)
  • Housing affordability
  • Schools/Colleges
  • Cultural and entertainment venues
  • Key retail “draws” to an area

Demographic Assessments

Your ideal customers and members-of-the-future are dynamic. We dive deep to help you make future expansion and branch location decisions based on published and verifiable analytics. Going beyond basic data, our demographic assessments are grouped into lifestyle categories including “Up-and-coming,“Family-focused,” and “Well-established.” Key analytics include:

  • Household (HH) Income
    • Current/projected
  • Personal income growth
  • Net worth
  • Ethnicity
  • Median ages
  • Industries
  • Employment
  • Educational attainment
  • Shopping preferences (i.e. discount vs. department stores)

Competitive Branch Assessment

Knowing where your competitors are located isn’t nearly good enough – any junior broker can provide that information. What we want to know is how those branches are performing in the market-at-large, including by individual branch. We specifically profile branches and provide ranks compared to the median performance of the area they occupy. In addition, we identify and chart performance of branches that recently closed. They closed for a reason and we want to know why.


Ultimately, we present all the information we “uncover” via RUBICON REVEAL on a series of interactive “Heat Maps.” These are highly accurate “birds-eye-view” visuals that allow our clients to “see” markets in myriad ways simply by turning on selected “topic” and “category” layers. We personally present this information and, upon completion, our clients receive secured on-line access to further review the maps on their own. These Heat Map layers include:

  • Population & HH density
  • HH incomes
  • Competitive branches
  • Customers/members
  • CU and community bank users (Entire market)
  • Users who prefer in-person banking (yes, we track this)
  • Over and under-branched areas by population & HH
  • Major retailers & grocery stores (key drivers to an area)
  • LMI areas
  • Loan and credit usage
  • Airports
  • Freeways and major arterials traffic counts

Putting it all Together

Ultimately, all these Market/Demographic/Competitive Set layers are compared against a benchmark branch of our clients’ choosing. The aggregate findings allow us and our clients to empirically contrast and compare candidate branch locations against the ideal benchmark.

The final step comes in giving the potential expansion market and/or branches a score – The Rubicon Score – scaled on a level of 1-to-5 – based on our clients’ priorities. This provides a side by side comparison of all the potential areas that may be considered.

Traditional brokers don’t do this for their clients because they can’t. We do it because we know that this upfront work makes the entire process much more efficient. Our clients recognize the value of information and — in today’s dynamic banking industry — find measurable value in the information and insights we provide more important than ever.

Corey A. Waite is a leading commercial real estate advisor to the financial services industry. As Founder and CEO of Rubicon Concierge Real Estate Services, Corey works directly with senior executives coast-to-coast to deliver strategic plans and transactional services focused on optimizing the needs of employees, clients and members.

Look Before You Lease

Look Before You Lease

In our experience, successful Wealth Management firms don’t sell financial services. Rather, they offer their clients sustainable strategies and then they apply their expertise to deliver positive results well into the future.

Maybe Your Ironclad Lease Isn’t

Maybe Your Ironclad Lease Isn’t

A common perception among many wealth management firms is that there is little, if anything, they can do to improve their current office lease before renewal. Turns out, that’s a costly mis-perception.

Take a Walk!

Take a Walk!

The sticker shock rise in construction costs has many credit unions pulling back on their current project pipeline. While that makes sense, it doesn’t mean you have to suspend your overall growth plans.