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KI In The News

Design Trends for Banking Success

May 20, 2009

By-Lined Article By: Jonathan Webb, KI Vice President of Business, and 
Ronald A. Baughman, President, Associates Planning/Design Group, Inc.

The current challenges for the banking industry are unprecedented and likely to persist well into the future. Yet, there are countless financial institutions capitalizing on trends to successfully weather this storm. 

While one measure of banking success is deposits that increase year after year, most banks clearly recognize there are additional drivers for overall success. They include the layout and design of the physical workspace so that it supports greater worker efficiencies and elevates the customer experience, fostering greater satisfaction, retention and growth. 

Based on our experience, we have discovered several opportunities for banks to gain market share despite turbulent times including three key design trends that have come to the forefront. 

Trend #1: Reinforcing brand identity through design
When it comes to how a bank should look and feel, there are a wide variety of opinions in the industry with one exception: all banks have a desire to reinforce their brand identities. 

For some, this demands there be overall interior design continuity throughout all locations. For others, it simply means ensuring there are visible and consistent interior elements at each location. 

For example, M&I, a large financial institution with branches throughout the Midwest and in Florida and Arizona maintains that every M&I Bank interior must have a similar look and feel. In doing so, its brand is evident and clearly recognizable from site to site. Local and geographical influences like artwork give M&I Bank the flexibility to reinforce local community flavor into its branch interiors while maintaining its strong brand identity. 

In contrast, Horicon Bank is a regional Wisconsin institution with several branches, each with a different look and feel. Some have darker wood tones, others have lighter. Some are newly built buildings while others are renovations. However, because Horicon is known for its marshes, each location has a "welcome wall" featuring the Horicon logo and marsh images. This one element reinforces the bank's brand at every location, regardless of the varied interiors. 

Bank brands that reflect exceptional customer service can further reinforce their identities using space layout and design. One trend is the introduction of welcome desks, or concierge stations, to greet customers and offer guidance so customer needs are handled quickly and efficiently. 

Aesthetics can also communicate brand identity. For some banks, a contemporary retail environment (think Starbucks) properly reflects their brands as being approachable, savvy and neighborly. Other institutions prefer traditional banking design aesthetics that evoke well-established, secure brand images and longstanding histories. 

Trend #2: Courting Generation Y
A new generation has entered the workforce representing the largest since the Boomers. Generation Y are those individuals born between 1980 and1997. Attracting them requires new ways of thinking about banking. Some key trends we've noticed:

  • Student outreach. Horicon Bank is considering the placement of a co-op branch in a large Wisconsin high school. Doing so would provide access to a young audience, one that has not yet established banking relationships. Their idea is to engage students early on in hopes of growing those relationships.
  • Coffee-shop environments. Banks across the country are implementing a destination approach by placing coffee shops within banking confines. Complete with wi-fi, the coffee shops attract younger clients. Horicon has done this in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where there are three colleges/technical institutions within two miles of its new branch. The coffee shops offer students one-stop service including easy access to banking services, prompting many to open accounts.
  • Kiosk services. Tech-savvy Generation Y is not only comfortable with online transactions, the younger demographic practically demands it. Banks are replacing tellers with online banking kiosks located right in their lobbies.
  • Modern aesthetics. The most progressive banks also recognize the need to attract younger customers through interior design. More natural lighting, lighter wood hues and contemporary color choices all contribute to the modern appearance that appeals to Generation Y.

Trend #3: Reconfiguring existing buildings

The future of banking will certainly see more changes, and that includes mergers and acquisitions. As a result, more building reconfigurations will occur in the coming years versus new construction. 

Whether a financial institution purchases and reconfigures existing sites, or renovates branches, it must address both interior and business-related issues. For one, banks cannot afford to close operations during remodels. Therefore interior design improvements must occur quickly and efficiently to minimize downtime. 

Additionally, general construction tactics such as destroying and rebuilding gypsum walls is both labor-intensive and costly. The effects on HVAC, electrical and plumbing all come into play. 

As banks continue to rebuild and reconfigure existing spaces, demountable partitions are becoming a popular solution. They quickly redefine workspace without affecting other infrastructure. They also add to the overall interior appearance and can enhance a bank's brand message. 

The future is now
Demand for banking services is closely tied to overall economic activity, yet profitability depends greatly on a financial institution's marketing skills and operational efficiencies. Design trends can play a key role in successfully supporting both initiatives by reinforcing brand identity, attracting Generation Y and enhancing building reconfigurations.

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