Credit unions, banks and financial institutions have never had a very design-forward reputation. For years, it was all about getting in line to face a row of tellers, sometimes behind glass – and even, once-upon-a-time, in cages! Meanwhile, big financial decisions like investing, mortgages or insurance were often made in small, closed offices with little or no thought given to decor.
Well, things have changed. Online banking and apps on everyone’s phone, have made personal banking less a chore and easy to do from wherever you are. Day to day banking doesn’t even require people to go into the branch. Today, an in-person visit to a financial institution is usually a very specific kind of one-on-one meeting with an advisor to talk about the big picture, future plans, and how to get there.
For young investors like millennials, the stiff collar approach of old just doesn’t cut it. They’re looking for a personalized experience that in a more relaxed and informal environment than what’s on offer at traditional establishments.
This is particularly important to Paula Arsens, creative director of Financial Strategies. They are in the business of selling insurance and other financial products to the millennial market.
“Millennials have a mistrust of traditional banks,” says Arsens. “So we knew we needed a different, more casual design for our offices. We call them Financial Cafes and I think the name and design really sets the right tone.”
Arsens, also an interior designer, worked with Judy Henderson, principal of Inside Design, a firm primarily known for their work in hospitality and restaurant spaces. Together they brought together a modern and open decor where millennials would feel comfortable and at ease.
“The design aesthetic for the café is clean and calming,” says Henderson. “We used a neutral background with accents of orange and large-scale design elements like the living wall and modern paintings to create overall drama. We also added a dynamic, light cove ceiling.”
Financial Strategies isn’t the only financial institution making design changes to attract and keep their customers. Vancity, Canada’s largest community credit union, began to make changes to their interior design back in 2012. According to Rick Sielski, senior vice president, the credit union “intentionally adapted a design to meet the needs of local members in a way that recognizes the role they play in the community.”
Today, 12 Vancity branches have the new design that offers a concierge to greet members at the entrance and other innovative features like free meeting space and large scale art installations that reflect the rich and diverse culture of the branch’s local community. The re-design is a reflection of Vancity’s desire to be a community hub and a place of shared values and ideas.
“It’s definitely about going the extra mile to personalize service and provide a space that speaks to your customers wants and needs,” says Arsens. “The café design is just one way to show our clients we understand how they want to do business.”
Financial Strategies’ Café is located at 363 Bremner Boulevard in Toronto, Ontario. Inside Design Studio is a Vancouver firm specializing in modern hospitality design.