Branch Success is a Three-Legged Stool

The branch of the future may not resemble the serious, conservative look of the past, but what’s behind all that glitz is anything, but fly-by-night.

Lobbies filled with furniture that looks as if it could double as a set from the 60’s era sci-fi show Star Trek. Lounging areas that are one disco ball short of a setting for a hot new nightclub. Lighting that would feel equally at home in an art gallery for postmodern sculpture.


Is this the lobby of a bank, or a leftover set  from a 60’s sci-fi show? Actually, it’s Mazuma’s 50,000 square ft. main office. And thanks for asking!

What’s behind all that design

This is, after all, the place where all of your bank and credit union’s channels converge. It’s the key cog in your service delivery network. The branch is more than just four walls, a vault and a teller line. As the saying goes, there’s a method to the madness. The branch of the future is a three-legged stool composed of the right mix of:

  1. Function
  2. Experience
  3. Technology Integration

What’s your function?

The branch houses a process for people – staff and customers. So, the first step in developing a branch is to understand what functions are needed within it. A common starting point is uncovering and understanding the function of a transaction. Is the transaction teller-assisted (teller line or pods)? Self-service (ATMs)? Or assisted self-service (Interactive Teller Machines)?

Knowing and naming all the functions for the branch process is the key to decisions about placement, staffing and tools needed. Additional services offered in the branch potentially include lending, insurance or investments and should be included in this phase.


The design process starts inside the branch and then builds layers to offer services for the customers or members, and the community.

Experience – Think in Zones

As the function takes shape, then the desired experience is layered on top of the function. (The second piece of the three-legged stool.) Many a bank or credit union skip over the branch’s function and go straight for the experience because that is what is considered hip, cool or relevant. Certainly the experience matters, and matters a lot, but not at the expense of function – first.

The branch experience starts from the first impression, then zones of customer activity, and support. Each zone accomplishes both a function and experience through the branch’s staff and tools. Zones are established by length of time:

  • Entry zone – where first impressions happen
  • 1-5 minute zone – where self-service, assisted self-service, or teller-assisted decisions are made
  • 5-20 minute zone – consultants, manager access, and full screen video helps customers or members solve larger concerns or questions
  • Support zone – workroom, break rooms and storage are part of the process too – don’t forget about it
  • Add on – something extra, like a community room


Zones are matched with function to facilitate experience of the branch with customers and members.

Tech is the final piece

Once the functions of the branch, and the desired experience of customers and members are identified, the all-important integration of technology is applied to make everything run. (The three-legged stool is complete!) Cash automation and recycling at the point of the transaction creates time for staff to focus less on counting, and balancing and more on tending to the needs of the customer. Self-service tools like ATMs and ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines) allow customers or members to serve themselves or with the assistance of staff during our after hours. Automation is not limited to cash transactions. It also includes video conferencing, security, and back office equipment – anything to accelerate the business. 

When all three legs come together, it often looks something…like this:

LEVEL is trusted by banks and credit unions across the country for our ability to implement the three-legged stool to a successful branch. Each component of the stool is needed or you risk sinking the Titanic.

The branch is as important as ever for customers and members to conduct business. However, it is not just about the design. What else helps you avoid the Iceberg?

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