Combining culture and design to welcome (back) the community

As the COVID crisis’ lockdowns began, retail bank branches faced immediate impacts: lobbies closed except by appointment, reduced hours, and the rise of remote and digital channels. All of which presented a challenge for community banks and credit unions, whose relationship-driven banking models run on those in-person interactions that happen in the branch.

Even as the crisis wears on, it’s clear that the branch channel continues to play a powerful role in acquisition and sales. According to McKinsey, in July, 54% of customers reported that they’ll only open an account with a nearby physical location, and nearly 60% of sales continue to originate in the branch. For retail banks, creating a sense of welcome when lobbies do reopen is perhaps more critical than ever in reinforcing those core relationships at the heart of their brands.

UW Credit Union’s recently opened prototype Verona location is poised to do just that. Here, the sense of welcome begins outside: Soaring glass walls reveal a modern and relaxed interior. Staff is untethered from the teller line, freeing them to interact with members. User-friendly technology is seamlessly integrated throughout to empower members—of all generations—to interact with digital channels. Brand messaging reinforces the connection to members with a clear, compelling promise: “Here for every you.” Lit from within, the branch becomes a shining beacon of welcome to the community.

While the physical environment calls the community in, the welcome is brought to life through culture and training robust retail experience training to ensure they could not only speak to the new brand environment, but that they could interact with members in a way that unlocked the branch’s full potential to create better member experience—today, post-COVID, and beyond.

The Verona location’s impact is already clear: The branch is 66% over its consumer lending goal; 55% over its new checking account acquisition goal and 157% over mortgages, investment services, and private student loans branch goal. Perhaps, even more, telling, the welcome design has become a magnet for even non-members to drop in d—a sign of the community-connecting role branches can play as we emerge into a new normal.

To learn more about how your retail design and employee experience can welcome customers and members back into the branch, contact