Is New England Ready for the “Nu-Branch”?

Dublin's jewel in the banking crown.

Ahh, New England. A place of tradition, steeped in history. We who live here embrace the distinct seasons, and the candid climate that brings snow, blossom and technicolor coral reef-esque masses of fall foliage without fail every year.

New England banking architecture.

Idyllic, plain and simple…

We’re also very much in love with our unmistakable architecture.

But are we perhaps a little too much in love with it?

Is New England bank design innovative enough?

Cute and aging, but is New England in step with banking’s brave new world?

Being in the business of financial branch design, we spend a lot of time looking at drawings and photographs of superb retail environments and wildly glam new banks. Many of these projects are in foreign countries. It’s probably true to say that most regions of the US are more conservative design-wise than Europe when it comes to the branch, but New England is in a class of its own.

New England fall foliage.

Breathtaking New England.

Sure, a weathered grey shingled Cape with white trim looks awesome, perched by an angry sapphire sea, preferably with a lighthouse somewhere nearby. But aren’t we *gulp* a little stuck in the past?

Call me, well, not old-fashioned I guess, but something, but I can’t help thinking the old four-windows-and-a-door-with-a-picket-fence-and-a-chimney-on-top could be improved upon for certain retail environments.

There. I’ve said it. Please don’t shoot the messenger.

Boston waterfront, New England architecture.

South Boston Waterfront; these lads don’t mess about.

So without further ado, here are some amazing financial branches from around the world that would be perfect for New England’s progressive mindset:

 

Australia: CUA (Credit Union Australia), Carindale and Brisbane

CUA bedazzled members and competitors with a unique relationship-building design that used uncommon materials and member participation in its decor. In what is described as an “organic space where people can relax and explore” their financial needs, CUA’s Carindale and Brisbane, Queensland branches feature such things as a Photo Wall (holds 1,200 photos) where members can post pics of themselves, their loves, local community and events. Photos can even be printed in the branch or sent in by email.

Ideas for credit unions.

Take a pic, have it printed right there, and presto, you’re on the Photo Wall

Some other innovations include:

A team of ‘roaming concierges’ that personally help or guide members to self service zones.

An organic space where visitors can relax and discover answers to all of their financial needs.

‘The Bench’, a casual interaction space, self-service zones called ‘The Booth’, and three private conference areas called ‘The Cove’, ‘The Curve’ and ‘The Corner’.

Modern credit union design.

A modern Australian credit union needs caffeine.

A café style lounge where members can help themselves, and private spaces and suites where they can talk freely. These areas are all fully network connected with phones, printers.

The Billboard – a plasma wall (three 246″ LCD screens) showing local and world news, relevant local articles and financial products/services.

Australian credit union with digital billboard.

The Billboard, a super HD TV experience.

YouChat app – an app designed and built in-house featuring a Personal Needs Profile that branch staff can use to cultivate more meaningful conversations and engagement with members.

Among other attractions are the Touch Board (a 46″ Heumi fully interactive tabletop) for customers to learn, explore and transact.

Australia credit union innovations.

They’ve thought of everything!

The Kids Zone, featuring iPads loaded with games to entertain children.

The Penguin coin machine, free to use for less than $100AU.

The Chalk Board, a message leaving center, complete with a digital display.

The Cafe – lounge area with self-service, automatic espresso machine

…And finally, The Herb Wall – for customers to enjoy a fresh and fragrant vibe from real herbs you can take home.

Green design for credit unions.

Don’t forget to eat your greens.

Plus much more…

 

Brazil: Banco Bradesco, São Paulo

This branch is ultra-futurist, with an actual robot greeter, called Link 237.

Augmented reality designer YDreams designed the Bradesco Next bank in São Paulo, and true to their interactive mission this one is spectacular. The branch features numerous touch-screen surfaces, both horizontal and vertical, with striking graphics and mutli-app walls.

Modern bank designs that are astonishing.

Social media center, ATM’s, the works.

The branch was distinguished with a Bronze award in the Ambient Design category at El Ojo de Iberoamérica 2013 XVI International Festival, one of Latin América’s most esteemed advertising festivals.

Brazilian bank with a robot greeter.

Awwww, it’s Link 237! What a lovely little feller.

YDreams have a knack of incorporating gaming and sales activation technologies into their designs that truly set them apart from the competition. We at Solidus have our own vision, keeping New England’s banks and credit unions at the head of the wave of change in the financial industry.

Latin American bank design.

Interactively superb with unique aesthetics. Those diamond-shaped things are ATM’s.

Among the touch screen features at the São Paulo branch are recognition systems that can identify users’ fingerprints, thereby increasing security.

Touch screen banking.

Touch screen tech with that something extra: Security.

But let’s face it, that little robot is the star attraction.

Interactive banking with digital screens.

Awwww, he’s here again!

Japan: Sugamo Shinkin Bank, Shimura

The Japanese are noted for their amazingly functional designs, and the Shimura branch of Sugamo Shinkin Bank (actually a credit union) is no exception. Featuring twelve vibrantly colored panels stacked atop one another to give off an airy and natural effect, the building itself deserves fame in its own right.

Japanese financial institution design.

Japanese sensibilities combined with bank and credit union design equals bliss.

After dark, these layered panels are illuminated, making an unforgettable impressison on anyone who happens by.

Sugamo Shinkin Bank, Shimura, Japan.

Shimura by night. Sterling stuff.

There is a spacious first floor lobby, with ATM’s and private consultation booths. There’s also a meeting space furnished with multicolored chairs and coffee tables.

The second flooor has a cafeteria, staff offices and more meeting rooms.

The third floor houses private changing rooms for the branch staff.

Shinkin bank multicolored chairs.

Amazing what a little color can do.

But perhaps the most dramatic features are the three elliptical glass airwell shafts that cut through the different floors down from the roof, flooding the whole structure with natural light. When combined with the ubiquitous dandelion “puffs” that adorn all surfaces, the exterior nod to nature is complemented beautifully inside the branch too.

Glass airwells light the interior of Shinkin Bank.

Eliptical, three-story high glass airwells keep the interior awash with sunlight.

 

The credit union’s motto is “We take pleasure in serving happy customers” and we can definitely see why that is!

Sugamo Shinkin interior.

Tellers and lounge area. Note the dandelion seed patterns on the ceiling and everywhere else.

 

Having said all that, we always put function first, as we believe in giving the people what they want – financial institutions and their customers both. We think Sugamo Shinkin should consider some PTM’s and an easy-access tech bar. We’d also think a tea bar (as opposed to our American coffee bars) would be a refreshing addition for those who’ve been on their feet all day and need a pick-me-up.

Teller line in Sugamo Shinkin Bank, Shimura.

Close up: Teller lines and glass walls. Comfy colorful chairs.

 

Ireland: Allied Irish Banks, Dublin

Speaking of tea, the good people of Ireland have a smashing new branch to visit in Dublin; the Allied Irish Banks’ “LAB” (“Learn About Banking”). The LAB is utterly loaded with all kinds of tellerless, self-service options, including a “cash and cheque lodgement machine” that can read checks, count cash and performs calculations of one’s lodgements.

Tech bar in Dublin's Allied Irish Banks branch.

Too many “things” in this branch, I don’t know where to begin!

There’s also kiosk banking available where customers can perform multiple tasks paperlessly via a kiosk that can check balances, pay bills, transfer money between accounts and set up or cancel standing orders.

AIB has several self-service lobbies across the country, with ATM’s that can do far more than just dispense cash. The AIB ATM’s can even top up your mobile phone, change your PIN on the fly, and deliver a mini statement.

Branding and merchandising for banks is crucial.

Spot-on retail communications and versatile machines.

There’s a Quick Banking Zone, where the kiosks and ATM’s are, as well as a social media wall.

A Mobile Banking Zone, where you can use a mobile tabletop with interactive screens that shows you all mobile banking options, as well as an internet banking booth.

A Product Zone that contains an Emerging Technology area, as well as a digital interactive product table.

A Lounge & Learning Zone, where you can unwind and have access to financial advice in private booths.

Allied Irish Banks Learning Wall, Dublin.

The Learning Wall. That’ll teach you.

A Business Banking Zone where business owners can met with their own clients and host business meetings using i-Pads provided by the bank.

This place is our favorite. It simply has everything, and from the pictures you can see that every inch of space has been engineered for effectiveness. There’s retail communications, interactive technology, privacy, varied flooring, excellent color schemes, beautiful lighting and tables. In short, it is awesome.

AIB "The LAB" branch in Dublin, Ireland.

Exterior façade and even more interactive features!

So, after that whirlwind tour of four of the most interesting branches on the planet, we find ourselves back in New England. D’you still think the way forward is clapboards, shingle and lobsters?

Solidus biulding projects in New England.

A Solidus project in West Hartford, Connecticut. Nice and different, with liquid blue lighting.

Thought not.