There is disruption occurring in banking, specifically around retail branch design and technology. Recently the Globe and Mail published a story focussed on Canadian banks, and the disruption occurring there. The story did not touch on credit unions, where the same challenges have also been recognized. Banks and credit unions have become more technologically savvy with more services online, but still delivering high value personal services that Canadians want in their branches. Branches that now offer a different personality than one may have found in recent past. Think open, transparent, welcoming with fewer counters and smaller spaces. Here in BC, where credit unions are a significant part of the financial services landscape and our communities, an innovative spirit is evident in branch design and service delivery.
Branch of the Future both high tech and high touch
Last fall The Credit Union Journal’s Special Report on The “branch of the future” highlighted the necessity that credit union branch design must be both high tech and high touch. To illustrate the point, the reporter spoke to Island Savings Credit Union COO, Randy Bertsch, who described some of the thought behind the “branches of the future” concept. Randy Bertsch is quoted: “Our goal was to change the concept of banking to more retail, shopping experience. So we have moved from the fortress idea of a bank to a more transparent concept — lots of glass and windows so members can see activities and feel more welcomed.” So, credit unions need to adopt new trends in technology but not at the expense of the person to person experience. (Island Savings project can be viewed here)
RATIO’s principal Christopher Pollard, led the Island Savings project, and offered this thought in the Credit Union Journal report, “When credit union clients begin to reconsider their brand or renovations that involve anticipating the future, sometimes panic ensues,” said Pollard. “I often see clients defaulting to what they see as tangible using conspicuous technology to demonstrate that they are forward thinking such as oversized screens and gimmicky technology that will be dated in a year.” The business case for more technology increasing transactions and services doesn’t often pan out.
Credit Unions especially, and banks in general, are about community, people and relationships. The value of the brand hinged not only on organizational consistency but also on the individual relationships built between branch staff and members in each community. Supporting these relationships is the reference for every design decision made. See our Distinctive Thinking piece on how branch design helps deliver on brand promise, and high value transactions.
RATIO has deep expertise in working with credit unions. Our team has provided architectural, interior design and planning services to credit unions for over 50 years. Recent and ongoing projects include: Island Savings Branch of the Future, award winning design on the downtown branch of Salmon Arm Savings & Credit Union, refresh of Greater Vancouver Community Credit Union’s brand and branch template, integrated consulting on all Vancity branches and the recent launch of forward-thinking branch concept for First West Credit Union through their Envision Financial brand.
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