Banking by design: setting new standards for retail bank design

January 16, 2018 / Insights / min read

That retail has changed isn’t news to anyone but how has that change been affecting that stalwart of main street; the bank?

In the old days, banks leveraged the power of design to unconsciously influence their customers. They sought to evoke very specific frames of reference in the minds of their clients  – stature, dependability, trust, and solidity.

Dramatic high ceilings, Doric columns and grand mahogany offices all signaled that this was a solid institution who could be trusted with clients’ money.

The bowler-hatted, bespectacled banker spoke, the client listened and that was that.

Banks wanted a considerable retail footprint coupled with a street-level presence in order to gain market share.

Both the advent of technology and years of historically low interest rates have completely and irreversibly changed this dynamic.

Now banks have begun to look at their footprint in a new way, really interrogating where they need to be and why.

There remain some important reasons to have a street presence; marketing and brand awareness and the opportunity to provide consultation.

The shift towards partnering with clients to help them articulate their financial goals and then help them discover the right products to do that has become the holy grail of the high street retail bank.

The concurrent rise of digital and mobile banking also meant that the reasons a customer might come into a branch are grossly diminished. You can transfer money, deposit a cheque or set a recurring payment all from your phone.

Now we’re seeing banks moving towards a look and feel that’s about consultation, high-touch service that feels more like a hotel concierge. Comfort, wellbeing and a place to access expertise. They are embracing multiple styles of retail expression where once a “one size fits all” solution was what happened.

Technology has now come fully in-branch in an integrated way. Faster ATM’s that get the transactions out of the way and get you ready for a consultation.

Branch banking is changing rapidly, continued move towards consultation.

Empathy over Efficiency

  • People still need and want the in-person experience, design needs to facilitate an opt-in rather than a store experience that funnels them

Purpose not profiles

  • Banking clients can no longer be lumped into over-simplified demographics. Instead, we need to think about what their aim is for their visit and design accordingly. It’s more important to think about why they’re here, what they want to achieve rather than who they are

Move from command-and-control to consult and converse

  • Clients are more educated than ever before by the time they step into the branch. They no longer wait passively to be told what to do, they require an experience that respects their autonomy and supports hem in making the best choices for their financial goals.
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