3 Ways Financial Institutions Are Designing Creative Branches

Branches are no longer a one-size-fits-all operation.

After the first day of Future Branches one thing is clear: For financial institutions, branches are no longer a one-size-fits-all operation.

Rather, they should be built, staffed, and equipped with the products and services that best serve the needs of the specific community in which they reside.

That starts with knowing your customer, says Simon Griffiths, EVP and head of retail distribution for Citizens Bank. How are customers interacting when they walk into a branch? Which branch are they walking into? How can an institution provide the products and services that achieve maximum value?

One branch strategy Griffiths says Citizens has kicked around is flexibility: looking at every location and making sure they all have the right combination of technology, staff, and skill to meet the needs of those who choose to bank there.

Then, as with any idea testing, he says, be willing to have some ideas that fail.

Here are other ways financial institutions are getting creative with their branches.

No. 1: The Capital One Cafe

Capital One may not be allowed to brew its own coffee, but it can certainly serve it.

In major metropolitan areas where the bank had no previous branch presence Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and others Capital One has opened what it calls its cafe concept. Today, it operates more than 20 of these nationwide.

Capital One has seen consumers turn to digital channels for their banking needs. Says Ethan Wingfield, senior director of retail banking for Capital One, 58% of Americans today use mobile banking on a monthly basis and that number is rising.

Consumers want to bank digitally, he says. And when they realize how convenient it is to bank digitally, they do it.

Secondly, Wingfield says, people are stressed about their finances. 90% of adults are financially stressed, he says, while 25% of adults are stressed to the point where they’ve developed Post-Traumatic Stress-like symptoms.

Yet, many consumers consider banks part of the financial stress problem; Capital One wants to be part of the solution the bank that people turn to.

That starts in the branch. With its cafe concept, Capital One wanted to create a smaller space that is warm, welcoming, and human, Wingfield says. Also, it serves coffee.

These cafes are meant to serve as community hangout spots. But they do serve a deeper purpose. Because customers can take care of their transactional banking online or on mobile, so these cafes exist for the bank to offer a money coaching service, where customers can meet with certified instructors to better plan their financial lives. Importantly, these coaches are not Capital One employees.

People love them, Wingfield says. They’re explicitly not about driving sales, but helping and empowering our customers.

No. 2: USE Credit Union Makes The Most Of Its Space

USE Credit union had problems with one of its branch locations.

The credit union had been in the space since 1999, but at 3,400 sq. ft. the space was too big. In addition, the brick-and-mortar shared a shopping center with a thirft store, auto body shop, a liquor store, a gun store, and a cafe that had been closed more than once by health inspection. On top of it, USE’s location had termites.

The average age of members who used this La Mesa, CA branch were 55-years-old, says Billy Jo Cardenas, vice president of retail and marketing.

Building inventory in the San Diego area is short, however, so when the available space the credit union fell in love with checked-in at 2,500 sq. ft. more than twice than what it needed USE would make it work.

The credit union wanted to create a space that was contemporary, communal, comfortable, open, and natural, while limiting or even eliminating the traditional teller line. USE wanted the space to be flexible that is every piece of furniture and technology should be easy to pick up and move and incorporate a kit of parts, essentially design elements the credit union could incorporate into current and future branches. And yes, there would be a cafe.

USE worked with Level 5 to design this new space, which now features a cafe, communal areas, a community meeting room, customer meeting rooms, a dream wall, a teller area, and a self-service station.

We wanted the space to feel comfortable and relevant, like what they might see at home, Cardenas says.

As part of the space, the credit union installed a 10 ft. wooden wall in one section of the new branch. Sections are painted brown, blue, green, and orange, and on it the credit union has written its value position, cultural values, brand promise, and vision. In addition, USE created a Dream Wall, in which members can insert slips of paper on which they’ve written their financial dreams.

It’s a colorful art instillation in and of itself, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space Cardenas says. Plus, it’s helped start conversations.

No. 3: Texas Capital Bank’s Mobile Financial Center

In 2016, Texas Capital Bank, a commercial bank not yet 20-years-old, was looking for a way to develop greater relationships across the state of Texas.

It could build a branch, sure. But if it wanted to build relationships across the state would on branch be enough? And would more than one quickly become expensive?

Instead, the bank developed the idea for its Mobile Financial Center, a 40 ft. commercial truck equipped with two ATMs, four laptops, tablets, and a number of TV screens. It also has a restroom.

The truck was built to deliver financial literacy curriculum, provided by Everfi, to local high schools, colleges, and non-profit organizations across the state, but the Center is designed to roll anywhere, including high-volume events such as the Texas State Fair.

Project considerations included regulatory requirements, business continuity, disaster recovery, licensing and registration, ATM usage, storage, drivers, maintenance, security, and staffing.

It has all the same regulations as if we built a traditional brick-and-mortar, says Anne Witherspoon, senior vice president at the bank.

And while currently the bank deploys the truck about twice per month for events, it expects that number to rise as awareness of the truck grows. But the truck has found use outside of this intended purpose.

Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August, and one of the bank’s branches was affected by the flooding and ultimately closed for more than a month. In the wake of this disaster, the bank deployed its Center within 24 to act as a temporary branch. Access to money is critical in the wake of disaster, and the bank was not only able to cash checks, accept deposits, and disburse funds, it gave employees of the affected branch the ability to work and retain a sense of normalcy.

December 5, 2017

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