[Guest post by Mary Pilecki, Senior Analyst, Financial Services]

This morning, Mats Torstendahl, CEO of Danske Bank Sweden spoke about the bank’s efforts to stand out among many competitors and grow market share.  Over the past ten years the bank has redefined its branch strategy to focus it on advice, rather than transactions.  Over 65% of the bank’s customers perform transactions through e-banking, and are turning to the branches for face to face advice on their finances.  Danske Bank is targeting entrepreneurial type people to manage their branches, and empower them to price products as needed — as long as they meet overall financial goals.  They’ve also resized branches to be smaller and more boutique-like, placing them in less expensive real estate such as the second floor of buildings, and on the outskirts of cities, rather than in prime commercial space.  Customers have embraced the new approach, preferring the better parking facilities in outlying areas, and the VIP feeling when they have to be "buzzed through" the locked doors of branches.

With a complex multibranding strategy that offers local flavor in their branches throughout northern Europe, the bank has a lot to tackle to maintain low costs.  They’ve consolidated operations while leaving staff in branches to create more sales capacity, and worked towards common processes across lines of business and channels.  In the past two years they’ve reduced the number of branches operating in the red from 16 to fewer than 8 as a result.  Danske bank has grown their market share successfully by making branches the place to go for help on new products, rather than for transactions.