Retail Branch Strategy Deploys Flagship Brand ‘Finance Shops’

Hyundai Capital and Hyundai Card were looking to raise their profile in South Korea, the increasingly digital country where the finance company is based. Differentiating your brand in this high tech world is a challenge for financial institutions everywhere, not just in the U.S. So how did Hyundai Capital tackle this international riddle? More investment into their online services? Yes, of course, but they also created retail branches called brand “Finance Shops,” flagship outlets designed to feel more like exclusive stores.

“Customers in Korea mostly use websites or phones to manage their finances, so our competitors were cutting down on their off-line branches,” Fiona Bae, Deputy General Manager of Hyundai Capital’s PR Team, told The Financial Brand. “We realized that in order to enhance our customer experience and make our customers feel more cared for, we need to provide a physical space.”

“In such a highly digitalized world, customers don’t have enough face to face contact with the brand,” Bae added.

Hyundai’s Finance Shops are functional but stylish upscale locations embellished with a members-only club service center. Each location incorporates a retail area with museum items for sale, provided by the world-renowned MoMA.

“Previously, off-line branches from consumer finance companies mainly handled new applications,” Hyundai Capital’s Bae observed. “These were not designed to appeal to customers to spend time.”

Hyundai Capital hired Dutch architectural design firm Concrete Architectural Associates to execute the retail strategy. The architects say inspiration for the project stemmed from the financial institution’s corporate identity, whereby they translating a rounded rectangular credit card-like motif, then “extruding this shape and subtracting it from the existing spaces.” (Translation: “It’s like a 3D credit card.”)

This diagram outlines the creative rationale for the Finance Shop concept. It starts somewhere between the company’s logo and its signature credit card product, leading designers to a rectangular shape with round corners, which is then given depth. The diagram reads from left to right on the first row, back to the left on the second, then back to the right on the bottom row. Don’t feel bad if you get lost. It’s confusing.

“To differentiate ourselves in a crowded market, we decided to invest in creating a uniquely designed space which reflects our brand,” Bae noted.

As part of the Finance Shop’s new Culture Program, Hyundai Capital and Hyundai Card offer various cultural and educational classes for customers. “We have offered wine classes, iPhone feature classes, English education classes, among others. Customers enjoy interesting lectures in a trendy setting,” Bae said.

Finance Shops convert into meeting spaces. This session is a cultural event,
but Finance Shops also host sessions like dinner seminars.

Customers can request financial consulting via a special Finance Shop website, and an “FA” (short for “Finance Shop Advisor”) will reach out within four hours. Customers can also sign up for various promotions through the website. (Note: The website is entirely in Korean.)

Hyundai Capital and Hyundai Card have 22 Finance Shops across Korea, with another 241 ordinary branches nationwide. By the end of 2011, the company expects to open 21 additional Finance Shops, and a total 70 or so by end of 2012.

Hyundai Capital and Hyundai Card are both part of Hyundai Motor’s consumer finance arm in Korea, a joint venture between Hyundai Motor (57%) and GE Capital (43%) with over 8 million customers and $20 billion in assets.

A glass wall with the sandblasted letters “finance” divides the store’s office area and meeting area.

A wall in the store has a niche containing a three-dimensional information block.
This 3-D wall is equipped with flat screens, tables, and folders

In the store are three help desks, with white Eames chairs and a white leather couch.

There are three “sub-shops”: the coffee bar, the design shop (red) and the “PRIVIA” service (orange).
Notice the bench made out of a log (right); all they did was add bench-backs.

The more exclusive-looking Finance Shop sports a high-tech black-and-white them.

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