The Adoption of Bank Technology

Why would an organization that has spent years driving customers away from traditional brick and mortar facilities spend millions of dollars driving customers back into the branch storefront?

 Citibank recently opened a new branch in the Union Square geography of Manhattan. The branch is well located on a busy corner in the heart of Union Square. A large selection of transportation, arteries, leading retailers, a large Green Market and a “hip reputation” all contribute to the high store traffic that any retailer in this physical location should experience.

So here is where I find the paradox.

 Service providers are scrambling to embrace social media and use it to further drive brand activities (including sales). For years, banks have been directing customers outside of the traditional brick and mortar storefront and into telephone banking, online banking and most recently mobile banking. These activities were originally targeted to the “less profitable” customer. No more. Practically every activity that can be done on-line or through a Smartphone device has been simplified, de-mystified, made affordable and is now heavily promoted to every customer profile and segment.

 Why would an organization that has spent years driving customers away from traditional brick and mortar facilities spend millions of dollars driving customers back into the branch?

 Perhaps like the Apple stores, any opportunity to close the technology gap and to get customers using the technology more will eventually result in delivery channel optimization. It was fun too see the techniques that are being used in the new Citibank branch to drive branch traffic ….. And potentially technology use.

Accessibility: The corner site in bustling Union Square will drive foot traffic.

Appearance:  Citibank partnered with the Apple store architects to design the new branch.

The open concept of the branch design is inviting and appealing to the eye. The signage is simple and bold. Something about it says: “come on in and take a peek.”

Awareness: Citibank delivered an integrated communications strategy to increase awareness and further drive traffic and interest to the new location.

Compelling: Once you are inside the branch, many new “toys” await your perusal: 

  • The branch boasts no paper. No colorful paper collateral is found on the walls of this retailer. Interactive media walls display real time rates and product benefits. Touch the media wall—it’s like a big tablet screen. Feels like the iPad; looks like the iPad on hormones.
  • A media wall with a live chat screen ensures that you are never alone in the ATM vestibule—24/7. Hmmm, seems like most e-commerce sites offers me that same level of personal service. Okay, no need to fear the technology. A human is just behind the screen.
  • Can’t find an envelope to deposit your checks or cash into the ATM. No worries—enhanced image ATMs capture every detail. This is “green” and it is safer  —  remember when the cardinal rule was “no ATM cash deposits—- you will never win the argument with the bank if there is a discrepancy  “how much cash” was deposited in the ATM deposit envelope? No more.

Ease of Engagement: It is easy to do more than just take a peek….

  • The interactive media walls are large and they are installed at various heights. Adds a bit of fun and exercise to the experience.
  • Of course, if you prefer to speak to someone, staff is available to triage you to the right area. And, yes, it appeared that there were many areas for private customer meetings if such was of interest.
  • The wi-fi offering and comfortable seating area accommodates weary customers who are invited to sit down and relax at their friendly branch. (No, they do not serve Starbucks coffee)
  • And, a long counter filled with laptops seduces you to play games with very attractive prize options…… Just provide your contact information so that the bank marketing department can get back to you with more news, more games and more opportunities to feel comfortable with the Citibank brand. 

Citibank will have many opportunities to measure the customer response to this new branch design and customer service experience.  

 Good Luck to Citi on this new venture. 

Side Note

In the mid 1980s, I was involved in the approved business case that developed a branch in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan; at the time, a capital investment of that magnitude in that neighborhood was built with a “pioneering” attitude. However the design of the branch which included a pneumatic tube system for accepting customer deposits was leading edge. Customers could sit with an account officer and no-one had to leave their seat to complete the deposit or the withdrawal transaction. Amazing.

The business case for the new Union Square Citibank branch had to be a lot of work and a lot of fun to develop. A lot of fun!



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