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Branch Showcase: Virgin | ING Express | Financial Spa

Virgin Money – Contemporary Neoclassical

Virgin Money partnered with Allen International to develop the financial brand’s first retail store. The concept challenges the preconceptions of traditional banking, with shades of a piano bar or salon environment. It’s definitely got a lounge feeling.

Subscribe TodayAllen International wanted to create a timeless quality to the interior, so the interior was carefully designed to reflect a contemporary twist on classic style — wingback chairs with unique colorful fabrics, deep buttoned upholstery, oriental rugs and ornate wallpaper.

The concept was deliberately designed to accommodate community events and other social functions. A baby grand piano has been incorporated for evening performances, and the furniture is easily moved to create large open spaces.

Virgin Money plans to adapt this store concept for the 75 branches it recently acquired Northern Rock. Is this an example of yet another internet-based bank realizing the inescapable value of branches, or a foolish waste of capital on an already outdated channel?

Citrix | Financial Services IT Solutions

People’s Choice Credit Union – Anti-Bank

The goal for this project was to create an “anti-bank” atmosphere, a place with elements not traditionally found in a bank: coffee machines, communal lockers, umbrellas and handcarts available for members to borrow, iPads for kids and even a community market for local farmers and businesses. The branch was developed by Design Clarity, who described the project as “a social, transparent and rebellious space where members of the People’s Choice Credit Union can work and play.”

ING Direct – Express Branch on Wheels

ING hired retail design agency Storeage to develop this multi-functional coffee bar and mobile office. The boxy structure was engineered to be easily transported to cultural events, festivals, fairs and concerts. The mobile branch, measuring 13 feet long x 2.5 metres high by 8 feet wide when folded for transport, opens from both sides to reveal a sleek, modular coffee bar in ING’s bright orange corporate color. The coffee bar features an espresso machine, small kitchen and office.

Citrix | Financial Services IT Solutions

ING Direct – San Francisco Café

This is the eighth café ING has opened in the US. Counting the five locations in Canada, ING’s North American cafés now total 13.

Subscribe TodayKey Question: If banks no longer need physical locations, then why does ING Direct — the world’s most admired internet bank — keep opening stores, with no sign of letting up?

Can you believe these cafés employ as many as 60 people? It’s no small investment.

It’s worth noting that the public loves these cafes because ING sells coffees, drinks and snacks at steeply discounted prices. You can get a bagel and Naked juice for $4.

A nice two-minute 3D video fly-through of the concept.

North Shore Credit Union – Financial Spa

This design is more akin to an intimate spa setting or boutique hotel rather than the typical bank branch design. The new West Broadway branch features décor reflective of its community, with Pan-Asian influenced materials such as carved pine columns, a granite rock garden fountain, artistic glass walls and a fireplace. Rather than the standard row of tellers, the branch has individual transaction pods. A new feature, the “Discovery Room,” acts as a cozy, semi-private lounge, allowing clients to interact with advisors in a relaxed, warmly-lit atmosphere. The location also features a concierge to welcome members, a “Refresh Bar” with a cappuccinos and hot towels, a kids’ zone and an “Arts in View” display featuring local artists’ works. The project was developed by EHS Design and Weber Marketing Group.

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Coast Capital – ‘Help Hub’ & iPads

Subscribe TodayThe credit union’s most recent branch in North Vancouver provides the first glimpse of their remodeled “Aperio” concept, first introduced in 2005. (“Aperio” is Latin for “to make open.”) The new Aperio 2.0 design retains some of the earlier design’s features, namely the open, concentric floor plan. At the center of the branch is the “Help Hub,” an open greeter desk.

The most noteworthy addition to the new Aperio 2.0 branch experience? iPads. The tablets are available for public use, and come loaded with a proprietary app called “Where You’re At Money Chat.” The iPad app is designed to guide people “through a step-by-step process to making better decisions about how they manage, save, grow and protect their money,” said Kathy McGarrigle, Coast Capital’s COO. Unfortunately, the iPads have to be bolted down to the tables, and the only app you can run is Money Chat.

Photo credit: Valerie Hider, Coast Capital.

Citrix | Financial Services IT Solutions

HSBC Brazil – NASA Caliber Command Center

Okay, so this isn’t really a branch, but the high-tech maze of Barco displays in this HSBC operations command center rivals those seen in movies like The Bourne Ultimatum.

Banco Columbia – Compact Retail

This space is engineered to fit neatly in a standard shopping mall footprint. As customers enter the branch, they are welcomed by a meeter/greeter and then choose to either go either left or right to the teller area or the sales and service advisors. Part of the retail strategy is to be different from most banks in Latin America by eliminating the usual transaction dominated area of the bank and putting the tellers at the back of the branch. Before the new branch concept, 50% of the people queuing were non-customers. In the new ‘allen’ design a special teller queue has been introduced for customers, identified by a yellow privacy panel. The branch was designed by Allen International.

Finanza & Futuro Banca – First Class Minimalism

This private banking concept caters to the bank’s exclusive, upscale clientele. Crea International said they were shooting for the feeling of a financial boutique that adhered to the rigorous guidelines of parent bank Deutsche Bank as well as the “dynamism of F&F Banca” brand. They describe the experience as a “first-class business journey.”

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  1. Do consumers really want to “hang out” in a bank? Or do they just want flawless transaction execution, attractive rates on deposit & loans, access to financial products & services, advice, and great customer service?

    Are these Banks & Credit Unions solving the wrong problem?

  2. I think most banks could use a good remodel/update, but when I look at these, I’m reminded of airports, hotel lobbies and my dentist’s office…all places where I spend time waiting when I’d rather be doing something else.

    I do like what People’s Choice CU has done though. The space isn’t stuffy or over-the-top loungy — it has a nice vibe to it and looks functional.

  3. @Terrell – It’s always interesting to watch financial institutions wrestle with the balance of form/style vs. function in their branch environments.

  4. Rarely do people walk into a run down branch and say, “I want to bank here because I heard your service is great.” While service may be the thing that keeps them banking with you, it’s most likely not what brings them in the door. These branch designs are getting people in the door because people want to (initially) play with iPads while they bank and (for the most part) say, “oh yeah, i bank at that cool place!”. No, they probably don’t want to use an iPad every time, but by the time the iPad gets old, the member/customer is sold on the relationship they have built with that FI. If they leave that FI, then yes, the bank/CU has failed.

  5. Most consumers who want to play with iPads will find no better place than the Apple Store. Most consumers who want a cup of coffee, want to hang-out know where to go (eg. Starbucks or your favorite local coffee shop).

    But even if they stroll into a Bank branch to play with a toy, a remarkable the leap of faith is required to connect playing with a cool toy to opening a Bank account at a new Bank. The same is true with Bank masquerading as a coffee shop / lounge. Consumers might stop in for coffee but again, the step to open an account at a new Bank when such need did not exist prior to the visit is highly improbable.

    Both of these strategies are great for very large banks … using a portfolio theory of investment, it makes a great deal of sense for them to experiment with different approaches. They expect most of these experiments to fail. However, Community Banks and Credit Unions do not have this luxury. They cannot afford to fail with multi-million dollar expenditures (especially when it involves a channel that is declining in its importance for sales and service)

    It really comes down to a central question of what Consumers really want from their Bank – a) sexy and flashy branches with the latest technology, or b) flawless transaction execution, attractive rates on deposit & loans, access to financial products & services, advice, and great customer service?

  6. Alan Bergstrom says:

    I found it curious, that while all of the remodels and new branch designs were fresh and bright, not one of them changed the “conventional” approach to the reception area. What I’m specifcially referring to is the concave shape that places the CU/bank representative in the position of control and power (behind the concave-shaped desk). Several years ago when I did some strategic brand consulting work with an international automobile brand, we identified attributes that supported the notion that the brand put the customer in control of the relationship (individual and personal, unconventional). If forward-thinking banks/CUs position their brands in a similar way, then all cues (including the physical space) must reinforce that positioning. At the auto brand I mentioned above, we insited that new and remodeled dealerships have a convex-shaped desk for all interactions with the brand, including the reception desk (in other words turned the opposite of convention). That made the customer feel as though they were at the center of attention and in control. Research confirmed this approach and the end-result was reinforcement of the brand’s promise that the customer was so important that they were the focus of every brand encounter/touch point.

  7. @Alan – Very interesting insight. Yes, the greeter/concierge station is becoming a standard item in the design of contemporary bank branches. It makes logical sense that a concave “welcoming area” would be more inviting than a convex “greeter desk.” Thanks for sharing.

    @Joe – Based on the list of top 10 stories, it seems like a lot of “innovation” energy is (still) being applied to branch design. The evolutionary struggle occurring in the physical delivery of banking services is certainly one of the most captivating storylines in the industry today. Everyone keeps tinkering with their branch models. There’s always something new.

    @Serge – The Financial Brand has consistently taken the position that any financial institution trying to turn its branches into hangouts is pursuing a failed strategy. As you suggested, no one wants to hang out in a bank. But can branches be designed that are more friendly? More inviting? Absolutely. That doesn’t translate, however, into a massive investment in flashy technology. If “cool” is what you’re shooting for, then maybe load up on techy stuff, just don’t be fooled into thinking it will transform your branch into a hangout.

    The Tao of retailing says that consumers who linger longer buy more. But does this really apply to banking? “Ooh, while I’m hear, I think I may just as well get a CD.” I don’t see banking as an “impulse purchase.”

    To your point… No, the aesthetics of a space have zero correlation with transactional execution. It’s like this: Someone can look great in a new suit, but it can’t cure their incompetence.

    But having a friendly, inviting, cool branch can be positively correlated with increases in new accounts. When people want a [banking product], they are probably more likely to visit a financial institution with a pleasant experience and attractive aesthetic.

  8. João Valentim Bohner says:

    Dear Editor,
    The last sentence in your comment sums up clearly and simply the incompetence of the banks today. It’s called: legacy core systems, designed for more than forty years.
    I just built a business architecture and processes for managing information (The Bank of the Future) which eliminates the core systems and consequently eliminates all problems caused by them, such as immobilization, islands of information, lines of business , etc..
    The architecture does not address the ‘new suits’, type: mobility, surfaces, positioning, beautiful branches, etc.. but the infrastructure that allows managing all these ‘new suits’ current and future, in an agile way, flexible, accurate in numbers and at competitive costs.
    I’m open for more information, if needed.

  9. Smart Banker says:

    Is it me or are the usual suspects absent – large coin counting machines and lobby ATMs?

    Does the new branching dynamic mean a movement away from self service towards interaction? Isn’t that in the face of what Gen Y is telling us by word and deed that they want?

    Are banks just taking another stab at trying to address consumer desires based on what they see as desirable/successful i.e. Apple stores?

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