As the Banking world continues to go more digital, physical bank branches shockingly remain relatively unchanged. According to a consumer insights study done by McKinsey & Company, consumers still prefer physical bank locations for most of their banking needs. So, why then are most bank branches in need of serious renovations? 

The answer is a complicated one. Digital banking is more cost-effective for the banks, and from my experience as a commercial builder, most banks are at a loss at how to improve their design. Why change what’s working, right? 

The problem is that old designs and low-tech features aren’t working anymore. While people still prefer physical locations, they have options. Often, if a customer isn’t getting what they need out of their banking relationship, they’ll just go down the street to another competitor. You have to stand out and prioritize the layout and look of your branches. 

Here are five ways to do that. 

  1. Prioritize Customer Experience 

Above and beyond everything else, customer experience matters most. It’s crucial to re-think the stuffy layout. Instead, I’ve always found that an open concept design creates a more welcoming and fluid customer experience. While this seems like the antithesis of traditional bank culture, it’s the wave of future design. Open layouts promote communication and an inviting culture that welcomes new customers, rather than shutting them out. 

With customer service in mind, waiting in line at the bank is one of the most frustrating pain points for consumers. It’s important to design a layout that minimizes wait times. Cash Recyclers have led to the traditional teller line being obsolete. Furthermore, Assisted Self-Service machines allow customers to transact on the fly, or to call upon assistance if needed.

If the wait time is unavoidable, then it’s imperative to put an emphasis on your lobby’s design. Make them comfortable by incorporating a complimentary coffee bar or a comfortable lounge area, outfitted with Digital Signage and tablets for them to explore your products and services.

  1. Design for Your Brand

This one is important. Think about hotel chains. A luxury hotel chain designs their hotels with their brand in mind. Their lobbies always include natural stone or uniquely designed countertops, well-thought-out art, ornate fixtures, and more. Whereas your economy hotels are straightforward and focus on cleanliness and customer experience. 

Bank branches are the same. Who are your primary clients? If they’re primarily wealthy people who value privacy, your construction needs to match that. For clients that are mostly middle-income families, then a more subdued design with a children’s play area might be ideal. If your target customers are senior citizens or more traditionalists, then avoid high-tech renovations and lean into a more classic design. 

Ultimately, your construction and layout need to enhance your customer experience. For it to accomplish that, it has to match their expectations. 

  1. Integrate The Right Technology

Technology is a great and important element in any Branch Transformation project, but it has to be the right Tech and for this, always reference your target customers before integration and deployment. Research shows that most consumers appreciate automated tellers and touch-screen interfaces in their banks. This shortens wait times, and also eliminates strain on your employees. New Tech like Interactive Teller Machines are getting all the headlines, but you need to make sure they are not only right for you culturally, but for your customers as well.

Even with an open concept, privacy remains a high priority for banks. Make the switch to electric switchable glass versus cubicles or closed office spaces is a great, high tech way that allows you to keep the inviting open space, but have privacy when necessary. 

You can also re-think the safety deposit box. You have likely noticed the sharp decline in use. The space traditionally used for safety deposit boxes can now lend to more customer space, or even for your employees.

  1. Incorporate Natural Elements 

No matter how amazing your design, customer experience, and tech features are, your branch can still be seen as a stressful place. Whether they’re requesting a loan, opening a new account, or dipping into their savings, money matters tend to cause stress. 

Study after study has shown the positive and calming effects of nature on anxiety and stress. It’s well-reported that the sun decreases stress and reduces anxiety symptoms. That’s why I always add large windows that allow natural light to flow into the buildings that I’m constructing. The more sun you have, the more relaxed your clients will feel. 

Moreover, consider adding other natural elements, too. Nature is a known depression crusher. Look into a living wall, live plants, or an aquarium to aid in a calming environment.

  1. Spruce Up The Exterior 

Once you’ve rethought your interior, it’s important to consider the exterior as well. The most essential thing about the exterior is that your bank looks like a bank. That doesn’t mean that it should be plain or expected, just that it should be recognizable. Again, think about your customers. While the building should look like a financial institution, it can still have inspired architectural elements.

Things I like to use include industrial louvers, metal siding, large doors, and massive glass windows — these features can make a building look innovative and futuristic. Whereas brick, potted plants, and more traditional features can make your bank look inviting and warm. There isn’t a wrong answer here, as long as your design is cohesive and intentional.

Re-thinking The Banking Experience

It’s 2020 and it’s time to re-think the standard bank design. People expect more out of their banking experience. As the world continues to migrate to convenient digital channels, customers expect their bank branches to stay relevant. By taking cues from industry leading financial institutions, retail leaders in other industries and general design trends, your branches will continue to stay relevant, but more importantly, provide the engaging environment that your customers crave.

The following is a guest article from Matt Lee. Mr. Lee is is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the commercial building materials industry. He is focused on helping homeowners, contractors, financial institutions and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase value.