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.

Allen 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another internet-based bank realizing the inescapable value of branches, or a foolish waste of capital on an already outdated channel?

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.

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.

Key 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.

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.

Coast Capital – ‘Help Hub’ & iPads

The 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.

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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