A Retail Twist on Bank Design
In today’s world of ever-changing technology, banking has evolved to include exciting new mobile and online technologies. Many bank transactions occur without the customer ever stepping foot into a physical branch. However, when customers do visit their local branch, it’s for a specific reason and they want a great experience. Banks are turning to design-build professionals to guide them in the design of their new main office or branch facilities and remodels. These professionals consider the bank’s business model, philosophies and desired brand experience, translating them into functional spaces that are not only unique and attractive, but more importantly, are based on the bank’s relationship style and purpose.
As trends for the banking industry have grown to integrate elements of retail environments, expertise from a knowledgeable retail design-builder is invaluable. One of these is Redmond, whose successful history of more than 700 completed financial projects and hundreds of retail projects include key national retailers such as Walgreens, Starbucks and Panera Bread. Redmond’s bank designs consider the branch’s operations and business strategies while bringing in top concepts from cutting-edge retail environments.
Creating New Banking Environments
As new bank construction and branch remodels trend toward a “retail environment” model, the experience for a bank customer starts at the branch door. Commonly used in retail settings, an associate greets the customer upon entrance and guides them through their visit, providing individualized attention from versatile bank employees who are trained across a multitude of bank products and services, ultimately creating an experience that simply cannot be replicated online.
Banks have traditionally incorporated standard brand elements such as logos, signage and graphics to maximize corporate branding. The newest trends include the development of architectural brand solutions that apply not only to the structure of the building, but also create a sensory-enhanced environment with interior design elements such as lighting, furniture selection, subtle in-ventilation scenting, sound masking systems and modern marketing techniques featuring brand reinforcement on interactive digital displays. Unique features exclusive to individual branches such as in-house art galleries or showrooms that flow organically through the branch provide a memorable “value-added” experience for the customer.
For many years, banks have traditionally offered conveniences including refreshments, fresh coffee and cozy fireplaces. Redmond has seen in many of its retail projects, and recommends to its bank clients to add modern “creature comforts” – multi-media screens, wireless internet, and kid-friendly spaces including educational interactive video gaming systems, centered around comfortable, multi-zonal seating areas with conveniently integrated outlets for portable technology. These make wait times much more enjoyable and informative for all customers.
Maximizing Technology in the Bank Design
Marty Steinert, EVP/Owner of The Redmond Company notes, “A major trend in bank design today is the utilization of retail concepts in the bank facility. The physical layout of the branch utilizes more open areas which allow customers to visually access all areas of the branch to see all the products and services offered by the bank, ultimately resulting in greater product penetration. Additionally, the interior design of the branch maximizes the bank’s sales strategies by integrating known consumer purchasing patterns and habits from retail environments into the banking facility. The bank’s marketing efforts are eye-catching and dynamic with the use of touch-based interactive digital video displays, tablets and education stations, including innovative interactive video gaming systems. The use of this technology promotes products and services in a fun way, and encourages clients to learn about and sign up for the bank’s added services on the spot.
Traditional teller lines are used less frequently, instead replaced with teller pods, cash bars or in some cases, with self-service teller machines. “Teller pods are designed in a way to offer the customer the opportunity to work side-by-side with the bank associate instead of the traditional face-to-face interaction,” says Andy Young, director of financial services at Redmond. “This setup improves the opportunity for the bank staff to develop a relationship with the customer by breaking down the physical barriers between employee and customer.”
Taking a page out of retailers’ playbooks, banks strive to maximize the value of the time customers spend within the bank facility. As customers come into the branch to speak with a banker face-to-face to accomplish what cannot be done online, banks look for innovative ways to improve the quality of the relationship between the customer and the bank employee. One way to accomplish this is to utilize Teller Cash Dispensers (TCDs) or Teller Cash Recyclers (TCRs) at the teller pod station. These time-saving machines automatically dispense cash and receive cash deposits, allowing the bank employee to focus on building a relationship with the customer. As an added benefit, use of TCDs or TCRs help to prevent errors and reduce teller workloads as the machine do not require balancing at the end of the day.
An alternative format to handle in person customer transactions is to offer Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs). Essentially a multi-function Automated Teller Machine (ATM), the ITM may include a video teller screen and provides automated assistance to meet basic customer needs such as deposits, cash withdrawals, bill and loan payments, balance inquiries, and fund transfers. By utilizing ITMs, bank staff can devote their time to assisting customers with complex requests which cannot be handled by machine or online.
Another trend in banking technology is the growing use of “remote expert” systems. This technology utilizes interactive video displays using staff located at offsite “call center” locations. Customers approach a kiosk or small meeting room and are greeted by a banking expert who engages them in conversation. By using a remote expert system, banks utilize the expertise of professionals on an as-needed basis, thus significantly reducing staff downtime and the total number of staff needed at the physical branch.
“With the many options available in banking trends and technologies today, the industry’s challenge is to determine which of those technologies will make a positive impact on both the customer experience and the bank’s return on investment,” said Steinert. “The bottom line is that the branch facility is no longer just a location to complete transactions. Today, it’s more about the experience and the ability to use the branch as a financial resource and media platform. A successful bank facility project must first begin with a thorough understanding of the bank’s business model, culture, philosophies, and target customer. Once we have identified those objectives, we can translate those needs into a distinctive design that is not only aesthetically-pleasing, but offers the functionality, efficiency, and unique branding that is critical to a bank’s success.”
By Katie Farchmin