Branch Design Traditions to Abandon

Discarding outdated branch design helps CUs improve the member experience.

July 14, 2011

Many credit unions are abandoning the traditional “branch in a box” approach to facilities design. This “one size fits all” approach consists of a rectangular building that houses a standard teller lobby rimmed by offices.

Getting rid of this “box” approach may prompt credit unions to think about how to improve the branch experience by making it better for members. At the same time, the credit union gains the freedom to design the branch to meet a specific mission.

That’s according to “Rethinking Branch Design: Strategies for Nontraditional Approaches to Branch Design and Operations,” a white paper from the CUNA Operations, Sales, and Service Council.

Discarding some other branch traditions can help sharpen employees’ focus. The white paper advises credit unions to rethink these traditional branch practices:

• Relying on right angles to herd and contain members. Instead, branch designers recommend the use of soft shapes and curving lines for a member experience that flows from one area of the branch to the next.

• Displaying traditional artwork that’s “pretty” but fails to connect emotionally with members. Instead, use artwork tied to local scenes, the community, or credit union history, and other themes likely to resonate with members.

• Using the “paper and tape” approach to marketing and merchandising. Don’t print posters on the computer and tape them in various locations. Move your merchandising to the next level with high-quality graphics that make a marketing impact and reinforce the credit union’s professional standards.

Better yet, consider members’ path through the branch, including sight lines and “dwell zones” where members tend to linger, and then position the marketing materials for maximum effect. New branches should be designed to deliberately control these elements.

• Selling postage stamps or discounted tickets to amusement parks or other tourist attractions. These activities can be discontinued with minimal impact on members.

“Rethinking Branch Design: Strategies for Non-Traditional Approaches to Branch Design and Operations,” is available free to members of the CUNA Operations, Sales, and Service Council; $50 for nonmembers.