Given the challenges of branch banking today, there's a bunch of innovations taking place in respect to "Engagement Banking" within the branch property and it's clear that many banks feel the branch environment has to change to stimulate different activity in the branch. In BANK 2.0 I classify this need to change the engagement in this way:
"The core function of the branch moving forward will be about establishing the relationship with the customer at inception, and extending that relationship through an advisory sales process and excellent customer support systems. It is conceivable that all of the transactional elements within a branch will be moved to automated banking within electronic banking centres, automated branches, ATMs or the Internet within the next 10 years. What then is left? The face-to-face, value-add of a real, live human interaction."
Chapter 3 - Rebuilding the Branch One Customer at a Time, BANK 2.0
So I wanted to take a quick snapshot at some true innovation in branch design and deployment today. I'm not talking about a fresh repaint, some new plastic signage, and more laptops and kiosks around the branch, I'm talking about something fundamentally different for customers.
The Flagship Luxury Engagement Model
There's something about walking into a Louis Vuitton or Versace Luxury store, the expansive space of Virgin's flagship store in London (Oxford Street), or the wonderment of the Apple Store in Manhattan or London. A retail experience like this is just begging for customers to visit you. On the other hand the traditional branch is just not, well... attractive. Design is an under leveraged resource in attracting and engaging customers today. Some banks, however, have tried to change that. Have a look at these innovators in branch design, and say goodbye to the high-counter, bulletproof glass paradigm:
Some other great examples of branch design for the low-counter, sales engagement model include Jyske Bank,and an innovative explanation of branch function redesign from Grey Architecture for "Info Bank".
The POD concept
Clearly many banks see the "POD" or a customer engagement area as a key component of branch design moving forward. This will be either through 'stations' or sales pods designed for customers to sit in privacy with a relationship manager to discuss their needs. Here are demonstrations of the two core concepts in deployment today:
The teller 'pod' with stations with some transactional capability
The 'sales' pod - maximizing the face-to-face engagement
Taking Design Too far??
But some take it too far - like this example from HSBC at Design Miami 08 where the temporary branch/vip lounge looked more like a farmyard than a bank...The point is - it's not about design as the sole criteria, it's about the engagement.
The digitally-enabled branch
We already saw Microsoft Surface technology enabled in Deutsche's Q110 branch - there are a bunch of other banks who are doing the same. In the video below you can see a discussion from the Microsoft Surface team on a possible Financial Services application, or click through to the Razorfish app on Microsoft Surface.
HSBC Premier in Hong Kong and YES Bank in India have given their customers RFID-enabled ATM and Debit cards, so that when you walk in the branch, they already know who you are and can start anticipating how best to serve you.
YES Bank's RFID readers are hidden behind brand signage
We know Banco Santander has already deployed a very cool media wall in their corporate headquarters (along with Robot assistants), but I envisage that media walls will increasingly come into the branch to create both a super-dynamic advertising environment, along with a place for customers to interact in-branch.
Jeffry Pilcher at Financial Brand has done a great piece on branch design and the use of interaction - The Future Of Branches. Check it out if you can...
The future of the branch is about engagement. The old thinking that was based on getting customers into a branch to do a transaction and cross-selling them is no longer a viable model, because the branch provides no value-add for a transaction. Thus, if the branch is about an excellent, high-quality face-to-face interaction, we need to build for that. Open up the branches, hire new staff and put new systems in place designed to support the conversation with the customer. The high-counter old teller stations and staff who are versed in transactional banking, won't work in the BANK 2.0 world.