Unveiling a new flagship location is one thing. Throwing down the gauntlet is quite another. But that’s exactly what Chase did at the end of June. Visiting Chase’s new flagship branch shortly after its inaugural celebration, Adrenaline’s President & CEO Sean Keathley and Chief Experience Officer Gina Bleedorn describe the New York branch location as a soaring, inspirational space that serves as the opening salvo for Chase’s planned nationwide expansion of brick-and-mortar locations, taking a challenge directly to one of its biggest competitors.
According to The Financial Brand, “In one morning, Chase Bank made its ambitious plans for building more branches around the country more concrete than ever by unveiling its ‘flagship branch,’ which reemphasized the importance of face-to-face banker-to-customer contact, and sent Bank of America fair warning it was going to put boots on the ground on its home turf.” At the launch, Chase’s co-president Gordon Smith gave resounding validation to the branch channel, saying, “Branches are the heart of the company. Whenever we move into a new location, it’s the branch that drives all of the business we do.”
But as Chase goes all in on retail locations with the launch of its 12,500 square-foot marvel as its crown jewel, some in the financial industry are urging a more cautious approach to branching. While we have all seen the data supporting the role of the local branch in both customer acquisition and retention, a new article busting the three biggest myths about branches says, “Unfortunately, as it is with a lot of research, organizations can often find survey results that support their predetermined direction… there is a ton of insight that appears to reinforce this decision.”
While industry data may continue to support the role of brick-and-mortar, it’s vital that banks do their own research on the viability and expected ROI for optimizing their branch operations. As Sean Keathley notes in his bylined article on branch transformation, “Whether it’s because of acquisition or atrophy, the number of branches in a network in need of an update could intimidate the hardiest of banking brands.” So, as we marvel at photos of what Chase has done in its flagship, let’s remind ourselves that as inspirational as their new space may be, their decision-making was driven by data, not blue-sky thinking.
Chase’s digital installations go beyond traditional digital signage. Most of the elements found in the branch function more as environmental support to set a mood than an information source for the bank to hawk its wares. This intentional choice makes for a peaceful, calming space more akin to a modern spa than a bank branch. This helps set the consumer at ease and ensures they don’t feel bombarded with marketing messages while they are in branch, which may mean they linger longer. While there are some videos playing via screens in the space, these are still focused more on atmosphere than upselling.
Chase’s transaction areas are functional spaces with just enough privacy to quickly and efficiently process customer transactions. The consultative spaces for expert advice and counsel span the spectrum from open, public zones where privacy is less of a concern; to semi-private spaces where staff and customer can meet or customers can have a chat; and finally to private spaces with an open-concept feel but incorporating glass privacy doors that can be closed off as needed. These spaces reflect multiple uses within the same branch for ultimate staff and customer flexibility.
After visiting this Chase flagship, our takeaway is that this retail location successfully addresses the myriad needs for functionality within the branch setting. But it goes far beyond mere practicality, however, achieving something banking is not typically known for – just a touch of Zen in the center of a hustling, bustling city. For more of our expert insights in experience design in branch banking or to request a copy of our forthcoming white paper on branch optimization and transformation, contact us at email@example.com.