Five Design Predictions for Retail Bank Branches in 2019

What customer experiences do financial institutions want customers to have when they step inside their branches?

It’s never easy to predict what the world of banking will do, but we continue to see significant investments into existing branches and FinTech (Financial Technology), as well as marketing strategies and services to capture new clients in a vastly competitive market.
The customers’ journey today is more than just your branch’s network; it also includes your mobile presence, your Instagram and Facebook profiles, and your digital advertisements. These things work together to create one successful journey for your customers as they navigate through the different channels your financial institution (FI) offers. If your online presence is new, fresh, and full of life, it might cause confusion for customers when they enter your traditional branch model that’s missed a few renovation opportunities.

And a branch experience is more than just updated finishes! How successful is your customers’ journey from the moment they walk in to a branch until the minute they leave? Is there confusion associated with where to go, privacy concerns at the transaction counter, or visibly empty teller stations while waiting in a customer line? What customer experience do you want them to have when they step inside? Expect this trend to not only continue, but to become even more important moving forward.

As FIs continue investing in their existing branch network through renovations and remodeling, the conclusion is often they have too much space – now what? We will start seeing FIs capitalize on these once problematic areas. What’s something you can offer to your customers and members that’s missing?

This isn’t to be confused with technology that makes your employees more efficient. Cash recyclers and other improvements at the transaction counter or offices will continue to see increased use. However, items like technology bars, kiosks with remote interactive tellers, and large touch screens as they’re designed today haven’t been successful inside branches. People can do these things better and easier on their mobile devices or at the drive-thru. When customers come inside, they want to see a human who can help them! Instead of providing these spaces inside, we expect FIs to find other ways to provide service to their clients, like enhanced Wi-Fi and better internal marketing that helps cross-sell services.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned is important, it’s understanding how to capture your brand and values at all opportunities. But what’s next? We’ve had internal design sessions discussing deployable, pop-up style branches in malls or at festivals. This isn’t just a truck with your name on it, but maybe an Interactive Teller Machine (ITM) with space for people to have a conversation with a financial advisor. We want to know how an FI can capture a new audience. Items like well-designed micro branches and individual drive-thru ITM kiosks are becoming more viable as branch alternatives as technology and security allow for more opportunities; expect to see leading FIs testing these ideas.

We start every project by asking each owner one question: who are you? Show us brand guides, vision statements, and strategic goals to help drive the design or renovation of your branches. When FIs say they are “driven by customer relationships” but the design of their teller line is five feet tall with a small area for transactions, we question how focused they are on developing customer relationships. Would you be comfortable talking to someone in that situation? Perhaps an open pod or flex office would allow for an environment that fosters more conversations that align with the core values you hope to achieve. As architects see more data from customer experience surveys, we expect FIs to provide more focus with who they and how it translates into their branches.
In the ever changing world of banking, it’ll be interesting to see how 2019 shakes out. We look forward to the challenge!

Adam James RA
Associate, Registered Architect