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What’s Your Playbook for Branch Development?

Holistic thinking around brand and branch development, meeting customers where they are and serving diverse and evolving needs are always hot topics with our banking clients.

But at the recent Bank Facilities Forum, anxiety over the complexity of branch renovation, tightness of budgets and, yes, the uncertainty of branch relevance in an age of digital-first banking took center stage.

Meeting scale, budgets with strategic value engineering

A renovation or rebranding often includes an extensive branch network, whether regional or national. The challenge, of course, is efficiently installing for a wide variety of footprints and accommodating the diverse wants and needs of local markets.

Budgets also can be challenged when an initial flagship branch design proves expensive to adopt at scale. More than a few times, bank partners have asked Miller Zell to value engineer a design, maintaining design integrity while reducing costs and increasing ease of installation.

For example, a bank partner’s original wall design used reclaimed barnwood, which was cost-prohibitive and functionally dubious at scale. We replaced the wood with a printed foam that produced a nearly identical look and also paired well with magnetic modular components that would allow the bank’s messaging to change as needed.

Another design called for etched tempered glass for a digital wall. We replaced the heavy and expensive glass with printed acrylic and installed three screens for a media wall that looked great and was scalable. We also changed the expensive material surrounding the screens, using powder-coated aluminum, which made it easier to maintain the digital monitors.

When scaling a design for multiple footprints and bank formats, we develop, procure, produce and ship modular kits of parts. These lower costs and capable project management allow for customizations. Elements can be trimmed on-site to accommodate the varying branch sizes and layouts, while replacing expensive materials with proprietary versions that look the same but are less costly to procure and ship and easier to install.

Prudent value engineering and expert program management save money without sacrificing brand integrity or reducing functionality or the customer experience.

Personalizing your branches, easy rollout

While scaling a design means seeking efficiencies, it doesn’t mean creating cookie-cutter solutions. It doesn’t mean sacrificing custom touches specific to each market and its customers.

Connecting a bank and its surrounding community is important, and localization efforts can feature a wide range of customized touches. It could include an entire wall that pays tribute to a beloved, nearby sports venue and its neighborhood, or it could focus on a customized set of branch art options that are reminiscent of the brand and its colors, or local imagery that can be stylized as art.

Our proficiency with creating and delivering modular kits of parts saves money, but it also provides opportunities for localization and customized branding.

Brand standards demand consistency in logo and color usage. Miller Zell’s branch playbooks ensure branches are delivered as a consistent brand medium. But we also recognize that we must provide customized and innovative solutions for a wide variety of bank branch types that focus on different customers and their diverse wants and needs.

Best Practices to Localize Your Bank Branches

Intertwining brand identity with great customer experiences

Yes, online banking is growing and will continue to do so. But it was more than clear at the Bank Facilities Forum that financial services providers know that brick-and-mortar locations aren’t going to disappear because customers still want them and use them.

A recent Sykes survey found that more than half of consumers had visited their bank in-person in 2021, and one in four respondents ranked the ability to visit a physical branch as one of the most important benefits offered by retail banks.

Not only do customers continue to regularly visit bank branches, a number of surveys also show that — perhaps counterintuitively — customers younger than 35 prefer a hybrid of digital and in-person banking.

That’s the future. Strategically understanding that hybrid experience and translating it to your branch design with optimized digital and human touchpoints will distinguish your brand and foster customer loyalty.

That’s the holistic thinking we shared at the Bank Facilities Forum and will continue to share with our client partners.