5 Tips for Your Next Branch Transformation Project

Having true power branches can align your culture, reflect your unique brand, and position you for higher performance and growth.

The new wave of mobile, social and online banking is reshaping how consumers bank. Their preferences and patterns are shifting forever. Financial institutions are scrambling to define how their traditional teller-focused transactional model will shift – or fade away. But what can you do to set your brand apart from competitors in meaningful and relevant ways to evolve technology and connect with consumers and business audiences?

Subscribe TodayThe future of branch evolution is filled with major questions that require strategic and innovative answers. Do we still need branches? If so, what kind? How big will they be? How much technology is enough? Too much? What’s working well? Who will use branches and for what purpose? What will successful performance and metrics look like in an increasingly digital world? How will staff, cultures and delivery systems need to adapt?

Here are five answers that address the re-invention of banking. They’re culled from fresh and innovative new branch prototypes we have designed. They include organizational and operational insights from those tackling this major model shift to ensure their success.

1. Embrace Smart Digital Technology

For time-starved consumers, coming to a branch to wait in a teller line is as painful as grocery lines with too few clerks and wasted time. Shifting from expensive teller transactions to automated cash delivery and new technologies takes more than just sticking new machines in the wall.

At the new BECU Advisory Financial Center, every detail of the brand experience has been engineered to ensure a powerful human touch is blended tightly with savvy high tech. Split into three distinct areas, the branch allows varying hours for high advisory guided interactions from mortgage lending, small business banking and investing to showcase how BECU can guide people to actively engage financial health.

Designed for flexibility and adaptation to new technologies as they evolve, the branch is a virtual testing lab and guided trial of iPads, mobile banking, digital messaging and electronic lobby queuing to evolve future delivery. The key isn’t the technology alone though, it’s the engineered brand experience and the maximization of every square foot with intentionality.

 A smart 24/7 foyer with rolling walls surrounds at ATM digital light wall and expert Mobile Concierges at the new BECU Regional Financial Center, Bellevue, WA.

A smart 24/7 foyer with rolling walls surrounds at ATM digital light wall and expert Mobile Concierges at the new BECU Regional Financial Center, Bellevue, WA.

2. Engineer for Advisory Experiences

The demand for new interest income sources is rising fast and branches are not designed for that shift to advice. While many desire to become their clients “Trusted Advisor,” achieving this mantra requires a holistic new business model and enterprise-wide branding. Every detail of the engagement must be orchestrated from the entry to the final thank you, because it’s no longer about transactions, but staging effective interactions.

The Financial Spa was designed for Vancouver, BC-based BlueShore Financial to shift banking from a commoditized mass market model, to a premium boutique brand experience. Inspired from an intimate spa model, every detail of the space, native materials, flow, colors, style, merchandising and messaging is engineered to express financial wellness.

Concierge training was built working with the premier hospitality of the Four Seasons resort team. Staff engagement in assigning clients, developing financial plans and managing wealth is an embedded part of the culture.

The results are jaw-dropping: 450% assets under administration growth over 10 years, a ranking among the provinces top financial advisors and selection as one of Canada’s Top 10 Employers.

( Read More: The Road to BlueShore Financial – A 10-Year Brand Transformation )

 BlueShore Financial's trademarked Financial Spa branches key on highly managed advisory services for the affluent.

BlueShore Financial’s trademarked Financial Spa branches key on highly managed advisory services for the affluent.


3. Dynamically Communicate your Distinct Value Proposition

The era of retail product posters, brochures and quarterly campaigns are coming to a rapid end. In a YouTube 30-second video-saturated world, you need to entertain and instantly communicate your solutions, value and ways to enhance peoples lives.

Branch design should embrace this search for information, insights and advice with savvy digital messaging, online content, wayfinding signage to make is easy to navigate, and tools that make it simpler to learn and bank: from iPads to touch screen video. Helping children navigate financial literacy with savvy technology is a bonus payoff for parents short on expertise and hungry for guidance.

4. Become a Catalyst for Community Growth

Finding new ways to become more relevant that spark conversations and help businesses and local communities thrive can be transformational — if you’re willing to go all in and not just pay lip service.

At $16B Vancity in Vancouver, British Columbia, we designed a destination prototype called the “Community Catalyst” to showcase their bold vision of “Redefining Wealth,” while engaging local communities in a fresh way. Vancity’s new Think Tank serves as an incubation hub for attracting local businesses and non-profits.

The Gift showcases local merchants goods and leaders that support community well being. The Community Stage is open to local non-profits and organizations to gather and is booked out months in advance. A new staff brand language culled from some of the prototype helps tell their rich values-based banking story while showing people, spaces and solutions to help banking improve lives.

Vancity's new Think Tank serves as an incubation hub for local businesses and non-profits.

Vancity’s new Think Tank serves as an incubation hub for local businesses and non-profits.

VancityBranch Transformation Project Video

Creating a language for staff to describe the new branch business model ensures consistency and articulates key aspects of Vancity’s unique brand and advisory service to their communities.

( Read More: Two Vancity Branch Prototypes To Serve As ‘Living Labs’ )

5. Design for flexibility amidst dynamic pattern shifts

As fast as technology is shifting, building fixed walls, multiple rooms and spaces that can’t adapt or change to meet evolving branch and product patterns can be a costly mistake.

Spaces that are adaptable for varying purposes, times of day, members and staff are vital to utilizing effective footprints.

As 24/7 mobile and online transactions replace teller lines, newer technologies like shared touchscreen platforms and video tellers will take hold as they have in airports and hardware stores. With more “mobile” employees out in the community, video-conferencing in flexible “hoteling” offices allow mobile advisors and dual purpose functionality for privacy and advisory access.

A standing Collaboration Space was designed for casual staff and client meetings that rolls away for seminars, events and community meetings from 10 to 45 people. The white board opens to an 80" monitor and drop down LCD projector.

A standing Collaboration Space was designed for casual staff and client meetings that rolls away for seminars, events and community meetings from 10 to 45 people. The white board opens to an 80″ monitor and drop down LCD projector.

What does it mean for the future of banking?

While it’s simple to suggest that branches of the future must be smaller, more efficient and more tech savvy, what’s not easy is designing an integrated staff and bold client brand experience that links to your unique value proposition, target audiences, product mix and distinct neighborhoods.

Future branches will be about high functioning advisory service, effective site locations, flexible digital spaces that can adapt to a changing world and “living labs” that evolve with the dynamic technology changes ahead. Dated oversized transactional branches will fade like checkbooks.

Brick and mortar is an expensive proposition unless you can carve out your own unique branded business model that increases performance, employee engagement, customer service scores and accompanying profitable relationships for those opting for a human touch.

The re-invention of banking as we have known it for 30 years is in full swing. How ready is your financial institution to stand apart and thrive?

Mark Weber is founder and CEO of Weber Marketing Group. As a marketing analyst, brand strategy consultant, and financial services industry expert, Mark advises clients on strategic brand and growth initiatives. He is a national speaker and author, and blogs on branding, branch prototyping, emerging technologies, and consumer behavior trends. Mark was the VP of Marketing for one of the 10 largest savings banks in the US and head of marketing for a Seattle-based credit union. He has over 30 years of strategic marketing and brand consulting experience in high-tech and financial services. He advises some of the largest credit unions and community banks in the US and Canada.

This article was originally published on May 12, 2014. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Richard newland says:

    I had the privilege of working for the HSBC Group (one of the worlds largest banks) for seven amazing years, leading the retail centre of excellence, which included how the c8500 retail branches looked and felt, including a dozen or so different formats and brands.

    One of the expressions that always puzzled me when dealing with my colleagues both internally and externally at conferences etc was “The Branch of the future”. It seemed to be an all encompassing expression that more often than not, meant spending a lot of their banks money on a flashy new design, which in some cases looked suspiciously formulaic and remarkably like some other bank’s branches but in their own banks brand colours or indeed adding some fabulous coffee shop implant or print your own T shirt centre, OK so I made that last one up, but it wouldnt surprise me! This was often done without considering what the overall customer experience you were trying to create was or what the primary business objectives were.

    Personally, my golden rule at HSBC was to invest time in getting the brief just right, I’d often spend a few months working on the brief, understanding what the business objectives were now and researching the market as to what they may well look like in the future.

    So when it comes to creating your own “Branch of the future” my advice is simple, research your brief thoroughly, your design agencies will thank you for it and will deliver something better aligned to your business’s commercial requirements. Focus on what the role of the branch is within the overall business and how it needs to remain relevant over the coming years, don’t be dazzled by the design, be single minded about how you can ensure you future proof your branches in a changing omni-channel world, not creating yet again another branch of the future with a T shirt printing centre!

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