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UK's Nationwide Rolls Out Apple-style, Community-focused Branch Concept
brought to you by WBR Insights
The UK's Nationwide - the largest building society in the world - has rolled out a new, open-plan, community-focused branch concept to create a more homelike feel for its high street locations and humanize the brand.
With more and more everyday transactions migrating to digital channels, banks and building societies are axing branches at a faster rate than ever before - 60 a month in the UK. However, amidst all the closures, Nationwide is taking a different approach, revamping its branch network to meet the changing needs of today's customers. The new branches greet Nationwide members with a modern, tech-packed, coffee shop vibe that focusses on relationships rather than transactions.
Openness and Connectivity Foremost
Designed by retail design agency Dalziel & Pow, the new Nationwide spaces ditch the traditionally austere British bank aesthetic for something much more open, friendly and welcoming. The concept brings staff right to the forefront by removing the physical barriers of closed counters and providing more open spaces to give customers greater choice over how they want to be served.
(Image source: dalziel-pow.com)
Comfortable, domestic furniture - including pieces from iconic British brands Anglepoise and Ercol - decorate the space among plants and greenery, with plenty of armchairs, tables, and phone charging points for customers to use. Wood, carpet, textured surfaces, and exposed brickwork all add to the feel, which Dalziel & Pow says is meant to evoke the idea of homes and property - Nationwide is a leading mortgage provider in the UK, and is highest-rated for customer satisfaction.
Other homey touches include coat hooks by cash machines, seating embedded into queuing barriers, and live radio chirping quietly away in the background.
"We've created a community-focused concept for Nationwide, to revitalize local branches across the UK," says Dalziel & Pow. "Breaking from the often impersonal, austere feel of mainstream banks, humanity, openness and connectivity are foremost in the new Nationwide spaces."
The 4Cs - Conversation, Convenience, Community, and Consultation
Based around what Nationwide calls its "4C" design concept, the new branches feature four clear service zones - Conversation, Convenience, Community, and Consultation - each designed to transform the way the building society serves its customers.
The Conversation Zone is where Nationwide members will find staff on-hand for guidance and help with digital banking, or advice on financial products. Conversations can take place at an open service desk or around a community table. There are also self-service points for express customer transactions.
The Convenience Zone is there for members who know exactly what they want to do - like use an ATM or book a private consultation.
Then there's the Community Zone, which features a lounge where customers can relax, read a book, and enjoy a hot drink with a bite to eat. The zone is also used for community activities, such as talks and events, and members can book out the space for private use.
(Image source: dalziel-pow.com)
Finally, the Consultation Zone gives members the opportunity to speak to a Nationwide financial expert in a little more privacy. Here, customers can enter a miniature house consultation pod (designed to resemble Nationwide's iconic house logo) and either speak to an advisor in private, or use Nationwide NOW - a technology launched in 2015 that allows members to chat with remote mortgage, banking, and financial consultants face-to-face via a real-time video link.
"High-street presence is still valued by all members - even the most tech-savvy value the reassurance of a local branch," said Associate Director of Creative Strategy at Dalziel & Pow, Michelle Bower. "[The new space] means that staff are active, no longer trapped behind glass or counter barriers, encouraging an open dialogue and side-by-side service. It's also open and multi-functional, and can be modular, meaning drop-in seminars on something like online security can be held in-branch with minimal fuss."
Creating Spaces that Are Meaningful for Members
At a time when more and more people are managing their finances online - forcing banks to close down branches - Nationwide's move to reinvest in its physical locations is certainly a bold one. But the building society believes it can find new relevance on the high street by making its branches more people-centered and personal - while technology may offer convenience, for Nationwide, it's community and face-to-face customer service that matter the most.
Nationwide's open-plan store concept is currently rolling out across the UK. So far, the newly-designed branches have launched in eight major cities, with more openings planned for this year.
"We understand the importance of face-to-face, and that's why, over the next few years, we're investing in our network to upgrade our branches, ensuring we're in the right place with the best services to meet our members' changing needs," said Nationwide's Director of Branch & Workplace Transformation, Richard Newland. "Through this we'll transform our brand on the high street, create spaces that are meaningful to our members, and demonstrate our unique difference to the banks. The new 4C experience offers our members the choice and convenience to bank with us how they want to - and not only that, our colleagues are loving the flexibility of the spaces too."
Branch design strategies are set to be a hot topic at Future Branches 2018, taking place this December at the Hilton Austin, Austin, TX.
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