Bank branch design; high tech and high touch
RATIO wrote this on Sep 01

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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Workspace design can impact creativity and innovation
RATIO wrote this on Aug 13

Workspace Design Part 2:

A successful workspace design solution will address the goals of the business, brand, the type of business,  employee profiles and help drive creativity and innovation. In an earlier blog we talked about the factors for a successful and effective workspace design. CEO’s who intend to optimize a key asset, their workforce, will want to challenge them to be more productive, creative and innovative.  To achieve this, workspace design must appeal to three broad categories of well-being; the physical, cognitive and emotional.


> The design of the physical space has a direct impact on stimulating ideas.

  > Providing visual and acoustic privacy supports employee cognitive processing and idea development.

  > A safe, supportive and empowering workplace creates the social environment in which collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas thrive.

Your workspace design plan should address the challenges of the modern office with consideration for the tension between public and private workspace. This means creating space for collaboration while allowing for focused, task-oriented space. Consider how to control visual distraction and accommodate for a diverse workforce including introverts and extroverts. And, your workspace plan should reflect and reinforce your brand values. 

A design plan offers solutions with clear intent and outcomes:

  > Providing employees with a dedicated workspace provides for a sense of ownership

> Open workstations, while dedicated, need to be complemented by quiet spaces for one person.

  > Dedicated team spaces provide spaces for team bonding and ownership, allowing project documents and materials to be kept readily available.

> Shared spaces are essential for the many functions provided by training and meeting spaces, cafe and the smaller collaborative spaces where impromptu interaction occurs.

> Touchdown spaces with layout uniformity and technological consistency to accommodate employees working temporarily in another office.

Companies around British Columbia work with RATIO for results based workplace design that make for better  workspaces and places to do business. Contact Christopher Pollard at RATIO to talk about your workplace challenges.

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