Forum 2015 Branch Experience Makeover

Banks and credit unions around the world all want the answer to one burning question: "What should our branches be like in the future?" Everyone agrees the role of the branch and technology is evolving, but there is little clarity about how branch design should respond to these changes.

Weber Marketing Group and EHS Design recently had the opportunity to answer this question. As one of three design teams selected at the Financial Brand Forum, we were challenged with presenting a branch design concept to NYC-based Municipal Credit Union (MCU)—live on stage, in front of 900 conference attendees. This presented a terrific chance to share our perspective on innovation.

Introduction: brand video

Diving in, what first intrigued us about MCU is the amazing bond this 100-year-old credit union shares with its hardworking members. This demographically, geographically, and ethnically diverse group is united by a strong commitment to serve the 8.4 million people who live in New York City, and their membership in the credit union reflects their kinship. We quickly realized that this inherent authenticity and rich heritage could be reflected in a new brand design, one that helps link municipal workers to a new environment designed to deliver real guidance. We set out to identify a link to a unique space municipal workers would be proud to call their own.

Finding that big idea took us weeks. We didn't want to design just one more nice-looking branch filled with cool technology — we wanted a visceral connection. MCU needed a bridge between past and future, worker and city, and a member’s current position and their future financial well-being.

The very crossroad designed, engineered, built, and now maintained for over 100 years by MCU members could be a powerful symbol to celebrate their own evolution. And, with a branch site planned for Staten Island, a neighborhood connected to not one but four landmark bridges, we had rich visuals to draw upon.

With our strategy outlined, we went to work designing a new branch experience that showcased MCU’s objectives. We identified three functional tactics to address these priorities:

  1. Design a prototype that demonstrates adaptability to a fast changing world of new technologies and touchpoints — without exceeding cost thresholds.
  2. Ensure the space is easy to navigate and promotes interactions that foster financial education.
  3. Tie space not just to technology, but also to the access, freedom and time savings that define mobility.

Creating a rich and connected user experience tied to relationship development, trusted advisors and tools meant clearly prioritizing zones within the new space. We sketched pathways designed to help define staff behavior, including spaces that would encourage engagement of visitors on the floor, rather than from behind a desk. We then rendered these ideas in 3D to help key decision makers visualize the relationship between training and adaptation and how this might impact the new environment and overall experience.

A century ago, ten Municipal workers joined together to help each other finance and save for the life they wanted to live. They built bridges and helped create a city that now defines America. 100 years later, we celebrate the next chapter by building a new bridge to guide 365,000 hardworking municipal employees and their families to financial well-being.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to serve the Municipal Credit Union team with a fresh new vision and excited about this admirable organization’s future.

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