Interactive Banking: Designing the Branch of the Future
By: By Marc Margulies, FAIA, LEED AP, founding principal, Margulies Perruzzi Architects
The community wall at Eastern Bank’s Cotuit, Massachusetts, branch features multiple touch screens that offer information on banking products, tips for setting up banking apps, local news and even interactive games for children.
Retail banking is evolving with the adoption of mobile banking and in-branch technology.
TODAY'S BANKING customers can handle many of their finances from the comfort of their homes and offices, reducing the need to visit branch banks. For their part, banks are modernizing by embracing technology, providing more interactive customer experiences and conducting the same amount of work in a branch with a smaller footprint. Architects are translating these banking trends into innovative design concepts that are “not your grandfather’s bank.”
Based in New England, the 197-year-old Eastern Bank is the oldest and largest mutual bank in the U.S., with more than 100 locations. Throughout its history, the bank has had a strong appreciation for technology and how it affects interactions among its staff and customers. Eastern Bank officials recently recognized the need to modernize its retail banking philosophy, and started a process to redefine its branch banking program and develop more self-service, high-tech branches. With an eye toward reimagining the future of branch banking, Eastern Bank selected Boston-based Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA) to help it design its “branch of the future” prototype, a more interactive, technology-enhanced and branded environment that will serve as a potential model for future locations.
MPA’s branch of the future prototype translates this embrace of technology and changing customer use patterns into a uniquely branded and expressive workplace design. Born out of a collaborative design process between MPA and Eastern Bank, the 2,100-square-foot branch in Cotuit, Massachusetts, serves as a new model for interactive, customer-focused technology, benefiting both staff and customers. MPA updated the traditional teller counter to provide a more self-service experience, opting instead for multiple kiosk-type stations on the branch floor. The kiosks are staffed by employees who can assist customers or direct them to a “virtual expert” (another bank employee at the headquarters office or elsewhere who can communicate via video chat) in a private room for more information on a particular product or service. An interactive table with a touch-screen keyboard is available to customers who want to complete their transactions independently. A community wall with multiple touch screens offers additional access points for information on banking products, tips for setting up banking apps and local news feeds. It even offers bank-themed video games such as “Design a Dollar” to entertain and educate children accompanying their parents to the bank.
Eastern Bank’s Melrose, Massachusetts, branch, built to the same prototype as the one in Cotuit, updates the traditional teller counter with more self-service opportunities.
In addition to the Cotuit branch, MPA has designed several other prototype branches for Eastern Bank, including a “microbranch” on the campus of Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The microbranch shares space with a casual restaurant in the college’s student union building. Touch screens on the walls provide students and visitors with lessons on maintaining their finances, and a roving bank associate conducts transactions via a laptop from anywhere within the space. With couches and high-top chairs in the seating area that connects the branch and the restaurant, the compact (350-square-foot) space offers accessibility and convenience for students, as well as an innovative design that the bank may choose to replicate in other new branches.
“The world of retail banking is changing rapidly, as customers ask for more electronic tools and digital channels to meet their banking needs,” said Tom Dunn, senior vice president of Eastern Bank’s General Services Department. “The branch of the future prototype underscores our long-standing commitment to individualized service, and melds technology with an enhanced customer service experience.”