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Seminar report: Lloyds Bank rethinks branches as places to dwell in

Lloyds Bank is beginning to redefine the look, feel and purpose of its branch network by taking an experimental, ‘studio’ concept to some of its most flagship locations.

The approach – so far adopted in London branches at Clapham Junction, Knightsbridge, Marylebone and St Pauls – is aimed at creating places customers can dwell in according to Paula Rowntree, Llods Bank head of branch formats & design, who explained the development to delegates at Retail Design Expo.

“Two years ago we began to think about the role our branches needed to perform,” Rowntree said. “We knew we had to understand what our customers wanted from their banks today, but also what they would need from them tomorrow.”

With the help of design group MWorldwide, the bank identified several key trends – including the need for the space to be more locally-minded, more digitally-enabled and experiential in its interaction with customers.

The first bank to receive the fruits of this new thinking was a branch opened in Clapham Junction last year. “It’s bright, very open, and has comfortable couches where people can come in, sit down, have a coffee, bring their own devices, and use the Wi-Fi,” said Rowntree. She added: “The aim of all this is to use content to create new conversations – and another way we’ve done this is by having a giant, interactive screen, where people can come in, see local news stories, and – if they’re looking for a mortgage on a new home, for instance – search specific roads, and find out average house price information.”

MWorldwide joint managing director David Martin said: “People tend to come to banks to do a certain thing. This new design concept enables customers to browse the full range of Lloyds products, like they would if they were doing normal shopping. It’s changing the conversations customers can start to have with staff.”

According to both Martin and Rowntree, customer research statistics prove the experimental concept is working. A staggering 99% of customers from the Clapham Junction branch said the design was better than other banks they’d been in. The same proportion said they could do everything they came in for, while 98% said the experience they had there was better than other banks and other retail environments they’d used.

“True to its aim of being more ‘local’ the Clapham branch is different again by being open longer too,” said Rowntree. “It’s open 8am-8pm on weekdays, and on both Saturdays and Sundays, because this is what young, aspirational London residents want.”

Banks that have undergone the change are also capable of hosting other audiences. “The furniture is specifically designed to be able to be wheeled around, so that the space can be opened out and turned into a venue for other purposes,” said Rowntree. “In the Clapham branch, we’ve partnered with the local Chamber of Commerce to hold events.”

So will this trial of new formats be the start of a much wider transformation? Only the four banks mentioned have been redesigned so far. But Rowntree said she’s confident elements of the experiment could be taken and rolled out nationally. “The banks we’ve changed have all deliberately been in London, but we’re right now working out how this might translate to other parts of the country.”

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