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By Jenny Bengeult, LEED AP ID+C, Design Manager

Today’s financial institutions must offer mobile channels for their consumers to complete financial transactions on the go. However, human interactions are best at building an initial relationship. According to Channel Delivery for Tomorrow published by the Filene Research Institute in 2013, 67% of credit union members prefer to get their financial advice in the branch from a person. More and more, financial institutions are incorporating not only state-of-the-art technology in their branches but are also bringing in the local culture. Most importantly, a financial retail space should present an organization’s brand directly to its consumers. Here are some tips from years of experience designing financial retail space. Feel free to try them out in your next branch design!

1. Know what you members really want. Who are your members of the future? What are their personas? Knowing your target member group inside and out will help immensely when making design decisions for the look, feel, and function of your branch environment. Look beyond standard statistics like age and income and dig deeper to understand their lifestyle and wants. This fundamental knowledge help give reason to all design decisions.

2. Find your inspiration. What major trends are retailers, banks, hotels, and restaurants adopting? Are you on Pinterest or Houzz? There are so many blogs, apps, and design resources available at our fingertips, it’s easy to pull inspiration and ideas together fairly quickly. Do some up front homework and explore all of the possibilities that are out there.

3. Keep it authentic, keep it on brand. What makes up your brand ethos? What makes your organization’s culture unique and successful? Understanding what makes you tick as an organization helps to guide and design an authentic, relatable retail experience.

4. Focus on engagement, not the simple transaction. In person transactions in the branch environment continue to decline across the board. We now have mobile, online, and vast ATM networks for simple cash transactions. Why are members still coming to the branch? They are looking for in-person trusted and expert financial advice and they might be looking to solve a problem. Design a space that enhances and promotes a conversation, rather than a transaction-focused space.

5. Embrace technology…but don’t let it limit you. There are so many technological advances, gadgets, and devices now available to enhance a retail environment, however, the average lifespan of hardware and new technology is 18 months before the next latest and greatest thing is out and available. Decide what the right mix of technology is for you and your branch environment and then design a space that is flexible enough to accommodate this ever-changing platform. Advance planning when it comes to technology can be a major cost saver down the road.

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