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Reshaping Banking's Future
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by FRANK BEARDSWORTH

MANAGING DIRECTOR OF RETAIL

The Financial Brand highlights makeover sessions taking on brand through branch at the financial industry’s big show

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 – Everyone loves a transformation. Whether it’s renovating old homes or surprising your coworker with a makeover, the unveiling never fails to captivate. According to The Financial Brand’s 3 Banking Makeovers Spotlight Web, Branch, Brand Best Practices, “[P]eople love to watch the pros take something dated and tired and turn it around complete with a big surprise reveal to the participants. That explains why the ‘Makeover’ sessions at The Financial Brand Forum are crowd pleasers year after year.” At this year’s Financial Brand Forum from April 15-17, three financial institutions volunteered to have the experts remake their brand, web presence and branch network. 

As The Financial Brand says, “Who wouldn’t want free advice from top experts in the field? But it does take some guts to put your institution under a spotlight, warts and all. And it also takes guts for the pros to present their recommendations to these institutions for the first time live on stage.” Adrenaline’s team took on what may be the industry’s biggest challenge: remaking a physical branch network. The client was United Bank with network of 142 branches, grown through a series of acquisitions. Only two branches are original with the rest making up a patchwork quilt of acquisitions across the Mid-Atlantic region. It’s not a unique problem: many banks have an uneven branch network needing alignment.

Chris Howe, senior vice president of retail experience design and Heidi Cron, director of architecture and interior design worked with the team at United Bank to address this diverse network. They recommended a three-tiered approach with an aspirational North Star about five years into the future. As described by The Financial Brand, “In the makeover presentation they depicted the tiers using one of United Bank’s branches showing three degrees of upgrade, the final one being a complete tear down and rebuild. The other two involved commensurately fewer changes, and less cost.” While the complete overhaul may not be achievable at this time, the bank can make progress toward its future state. 

To help illustrate what this would look like, the Adrenaline team developed a series of snapshots along the customer journey to show the types of activities and interactions customers would have in different sections of the bank branch. Reveled with VR on stage, the client – with the audience looking over her shoulder – took a virtual tour of these spaces. The interiors were relaxed, modern spaces with technology infusions – including beacons and wearables – emphasizing comfort and convenience in equal measure. Larger areas served dual purposes transforming into event spaces for local groups or gatherings to engage with community. 

Largely empty conference rooms and expansive waiting areas have been banished in the design. In the article Heidi Cron says, “Stop thinking about waiting rooms and think of them instead as areas for hosting your customers – places to engage them in conversations over coffee.” Lauren Hendricks, managing director marketing & communications for United Bank was quite taken with the idea of a hospitality area being used for something other than waiting. She said, “We do a lot of community meetings,” she says. “To have a space for them would be great.”

In an upcoming Perspective, we interview Howe and Cron about how the Adrenaline team approaches a bank makeover. This peek behind the curtain will describe how our tiered approach helps make change attainable and manageable. To find out more about branch optimization and transformation, contact us at info@adrenalineagency.com.  

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