The financial industry is changing; banks and credit unions are transitioning to modern office and retail practices. Online banking is proliferating. Consumer profiling and custom Web apps provide tailored services to young professionals who virtually live in their cars. As ROI tracking and analytics grows ever-more accurate, “leaks” in systems are more easily detected and fixed. What a time to be alive…
But older financial institutions are being plagued by another issue: excess space. These larger, legacy branches are often archaic and even forbidding in appearance; stone floors and walls, cavernous lobbies, high ceilings, and deserted teller lines.
Most notably, they’re sometimes twice the size (or more) than they need to be.
A solution is urgently needed to stop the rot and it just may be space-sharing. If utilized properly, large legacy branches could prove marketing gold for their owners. Creative uses are being explored, such as classrooms to teach financial management, insurance and healthcare advice, and even DIY workshops.
It might sound far-fetched to some people, but ideas are already in motion and growing in popularity.
Space-Sharing 101: The Coffee-shop Environment
The most basic move in this direction is coffee. In fact, many of the smaller emerging “nu banks” are being designed with coffee bars for employees and customers alike. There’s something about caffeine that North Americans love, and it can apparently be mixed with anything, even financial transactions.
Beyond the coffee bar some branches have literally been reborn and re-branded as boutiques or cafes, with vastly different layouts than the cold, stone edifices we grew up with in our yesteryears. Now there are no barriers between the guardians of the vault and the general public; low, comfortable chairs and coffee-tables, Wi-Fi and workstations, even mood lighting.
There are known coffee brands positioned in-house, often with their own employees serving branch customers. The branch, in effect, becomes co-branded.
The “caffeine branch” is a kind of gateway drug to deeper activities. Imagine a bank or credit union holding a basic auto maintenance workshop, or a financial management class for high school seniors. This is where the branch-as-community-hub is heading, simultaneous to its transformation into a multi-channel retail “shop”.
Financial institutions today urgently need research and strategic services to guide them in the design and use of custom new builds, and the large legacy branch issue is even more pressing.
A Rough Guide to Using Excess Space for Banks and Credit Unions
A very rough game-plan could be organized as follows:
- Legacy branch leadership meets to brainstorm ideas for a space-share/usage plan.
- Idea, e.g. “Financial Management for College Juniors”, now needs promoting.
- Branch hosts a day-long promo fair in the extra space where the class will be held, featuring booths, brochures and other customer intimacy enhancements. This is also an opportunity to cross-sell to existing customers, attract new customers and generally connect with curious members of the community.
- The “classroom” is constructed in the empty space, and is a cool, urban, somewhat “edgy” environment, one that appeals to college juniors. Among the required tools are:
- Digital whiteboards.
- Student desks for those who want to take notes.
- An instructor who mingles with the students. Not a “sage on a stage”, but someone who knows the pain-points, true needs and blind-spots young adults suffer from in their financial planning.
- Flat screen TV with a computer connection.
- Beverages on hand for refreshment.
- A flexible, transformative space with unique furniture elements and structure.
- A printer/copier.
- The learning environment should be adaptive enough to be switched up for use in other activities.
- External companies/organizations could rent the space temporarily, or on a weekly schedule:
- Travel agencies
- Auto dealerships
- Insurance companies
- Home construction contractors
- Nonprofits such as libraries could host reading events.
- Off the wall uses, such as yoga classes, cookery classes, video gamer meet-ups, etc.
- Return on investment should be a chief focus, neck and neck with community engagement. Students who are suitably impressed and feel they benefit from the class will be more likely to open an account and probe even more deeply into the services the branch offers.
The Secret Sauce
For a more granular breakdown on the practice of space-sharing, or the use of extra space, contact an expert for consultation and strategy. The legacy branch problem is different from the space-saving problem, but some of the solutions are identical. A company with experience in spatial planning in the financial industry can provide detailed solutions and actionable plans towards putting outdated and over-sized branches to excellent use.
Other Uses of Excess Space for Banks and Credit Unions
Not all space-sharing involves the razzmatazz of external-facing marketing and novel classroom activities. The emerging hoteling and hot-desking culture is another way that office environments are saving on space and could be a solution for legacy branches.
Hoteling and Hot-Desking:
- Financial institution employees who are frequently traveling can use the office space when they’re in the area, regardless of branch affiliation.
- A “reservation” system of some kind can be applied to individual workstations to be used by sales reps and others who may be in the area temporarily.
This can take the form of desks embedded in existing work areas, or in separate offices that may or may not be in easy view of the branch’s customers.
- The area can be converted into an in-house office-sharing enterprise.
- Companies like PivotDesk, We-Work and ShareYourOffice.Com have been providing much-needed inexpensive workspaces for startups and small businesses for a while now with great success.
- Providing this same kind of service would be an effective way for community banks or credit unions to establish credibility among young professionals in their locale.
- Outward-facing marketing campaigns can encourage local professionals to inquire within for more info.
The space should be stark, cool, urban or rustic depending on location, in keeping with competitor environments. And have plenty of coffee. Offering these shared spaces to startups and other local entrepreneurs could create a culture that takes on a life of its own and garners valuable attention for the branch in question.
Most, if not all, of the uses of space-sharing described above are mutually beneficial to both branch and community. What is in essence marketing and customer acquisition is also a genuine attempt to enrich the life of the community and the branch’s customers/members.
Contact the experts at Solidus for a comprehensive strategic overview now.