Magazine article Independent Banker

Space for Face Time

Magazine article Independent Banker

Space for Face Time

Article excerpt


A recent consumer survey by Forrester Research featured some surprising results: Although 3 in 10 consumers use more than one channel monthly to conduct their banking, in-person visits to branches are still the most popular. The survey of more than 4,500 people in the United States and Canada showed that 68 percent had visited a branch in the past year.

Innovations in branch design can help community banks make the most of these visits to build and strengthen the customer relationship, according to branch builders and efficiency consultants. Whether your institutional brand or culture calls for creating cozy destination retail environments or high-tech environments that appeal to tech-addicted consumers, today's branch designs are all about providing more cost-efficient, more compact spaces that break down barriers and make the most of the customer's time.

"We've seen the typical branch footprint decrease by about 25 percent," says Scott Smith, senior vice president at Interbrand Design Forum, a branding consultancy in New York. Especially in urban areas, real estate market conditions are forcing an adaptation to smaller spaces for banks and other businesses.

Design elements in a branch will be driven by purpose and corporate image, says John Hyche, senior vice president of Level5, a consulting and facilities development firm in Atlanta that specializes in financial institutions. Hyche notes that increased competitive pressure has also led to a smaller footprint; average population per branch has declined over the past 15 years from 5,000 to 3,000. Community banks must keep the customer's needs in mind at all times, he says.

"If a person walks into a branch, they need something they can't find through other channels. Bankers must make the most of every relationship that walks through the door, requiring branches to be strong sales facilities," he says.

Here, architects and designers nationwide identify several prevailing design trends for new and refurbished branches:

Go micro. Jim Campbell, principal of Pittsburgh-based PWCampbell, a design/build firm that specializes in financial institutions, is working on several microbranches, averaging 600 to 700 square feet, whose personal teller systems are a cross between a drive-up window and an ATM. Customers walk to the window to interact with a live, remote teller via closed-circuit television. Kegel designed a Florida financial institution's storefront location to hold eight walk-up stations staffed by three tellers in another location.

"One reason people come into your branches is because they're everywhere," Mike Kraft, principal of HTG Architects in Minneapolis. Microbranches allow banks to take advantage of smaller, more valuable sites and operate with a reduced staff.

Maximize staff and space efficiency. To reduce facility footprints and costs, many new branches are designed to have one group of tellers serve customers both inside lobbies and at the outside drive-up windows. …

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