Next week, Adrenaline President Sean Keathley will be traveling with NewGround International CEO Kevin Blair to host a Lunch & Learn in Bangkok, Thailand. They will be sharing retail experience and digital trends with over 50 Thai bankers.

Sean Keathley, President of Adrenaline will be presenting
The Digital World meets the Digital Retail Experience
Download Sean’s presentation here:

Sean Keathley

Kevin Blair, CEO of NewGround International will be presenting
The New Branch Design: One Size Does Not Fit All
Download Kevin’s presentation here:
Kevin One Size



What trends and changes will you be talking about, especially in markets outside the U.S.? 

The audience we’ll be visiting with are in Thailand and the Pacific Rim. What’s interesting is that we study the trends globally, best practices from retail experiences…we’ve visited many of these retail outlets all over the world. There are a few common obstacles that the financial industry is facing. The presentation will focus on these commonalities we all have, and the trends that are near and dear to us, in order to attract and retain customers.

My presentation in Thailand will focus on three areas:

  1. The integration of technology into the overall physical experience
  2. How to attract the next generation of customer to the bank
  3. How to deal with an aging, antiquated, and irrelevant branch network, which is a huge problem

The physical feeling and brand experience of most branches are not technologically relevant. How can we address legacy sites and attract the next generation? Sean will talk more about the digital world and its impact on millennials, but our presentations come together where I talk about how to get those millennials through the doors, which is dependent on the physical space.

Which disruptive changes are having the biggest impact?

Consumers are migrating toward digital channels to manage their day-to-day transactions. Now that people feel more confident doing their central banking via mobile devices, they no longer need to visit branches for menial tasks. The dilemma the financial industry faces is that most interactions are built on transactions. They have to redesign branch legacy sites to realign them with the digital world and the shifting preferences of the consumers.

Are cultural influences affecting the designs of these branches?

Yes! In Thailand, the saturation of branches is not the same as it is in the U.S. They still have queue lines. They still do transactions at the bank branch. They pay bills in person. The whole family comes, so it’s more of an experience.

But, there is an evolution of that environment, where it’s shifting toward an open plan concept. It takes down traditional barriers between teller and customer. Open plan concepts make banking more conversational. NewGround really initiated the thought leadership in that concept 19 years ago, and it has evolved since then. It’s conducive for complex sales and relationship building. It’s less about transactions. There’s less dedicated office space.

We’re also able to integrate a “hub and spoke” strategy. In the past, single branches would all be identical in size. Today, it’s not uniform like that. You see a tiering effect. You can have a full sized branch, or a microsized branch with just an ATM. It’s totally dependent on customer needs.

Have huge national bank branches caught onto the open plan, or is it a competitive advantage to smaller banks?

Some have caught on and have implemented this design into their branches. Smaller banks and financial providers have the advantage of being able to move more rapidly than the bigger banks can. The investment and time to execute a strategy like this makes it difficult for national brands to respond.
Regardless of how quickly your bank can adapt, it’s only going to have a 7-year window where they need to constantly rethink a new solution. New technologies, experiences, and competitors all change the model to staying relevant. One common mistake bankers make regularly is implementing a new model, but not refreshing it for fifteen years. A constant refresh is needed to make sure that it’s focused on the customers the bank needs to attract.

What are the challenges to integrating new technology in these bank branches? 

Money and regulatory pressures. Conserving capital. Not investing in brand assets.

There’s also a paralysis caused by over-analyzing the solution. Bankers always want to prove something before they spend any money on it. The cycle of them executing good retail strategies is so slow because they analyze it to death. By the time they launch it, it’s irrelevant. That’s the biggest challenge right now. The consumer expects that you’ll stay current with their needs, and not the needs or budget of the bank.

How do you work through that problem?

They see the challenge that they’re facing once we explain it. They see the challenge of updating hardware, etc.

One of our philosophies is to align the brand with the place and the culture, so we can deliver consistently across all channels. The “place” is both physical and digital, so it must serve the customers. There’s a need for banks to invest in people and training as well, so they’re leveraging their investment correctly. It all goes back to the idea of the Universal Banker.




What do banks need to change about the retail experiences they’re creating today?

The branch environment hasn’t kept pace with consumer expectations. My presentation talks about the ubiquity of mobile technology and on-demand information, and its trending rate of explosion by 2020. Although adoption varies in different parts of the world, consumers are globally armed with more information than ever before.  Mobile makes everything personally relevant and immediately available.

We’ll be in Bangkok, the second most Instagrammed city in the world.  While Facebook and YouTube have globally decreased in use, Instagram has increased by 23% in the past year—more than any other social network.  Few statics prove the consumer need for immediacy more than this.  The physical environments in their current state can simply not keep pace.

One of the banks in the audience has 700 locations; they are hungry to understand how to change large networks from a transactional environment to a meaningful, digitally-infused, consultative one.

What are the advantages of that transition to the banks that will be present?

Four years ago, we were working on innovative pilots that many financial institutions thought were too risky to adopt.  Now we have metrics to prove what technology-forward solutions not only work, but are necessary for survival.  The banks present, many of whom lag behind the U.S. in digital sophistication, can benefit from what we’ve learned.

Kevin mentioned that bankers make their decisions based on data. Is it easier to sell these ideas now than it was a few years ago when these were pilot programs, because now you have that data to draw from?

Absolutely.  Then, you had to convince people.  Now, they come to us based on what we’ve proven works. People thought we were crazy decades ago when we didn’t have bars in the teller line. The drive-up was groundbreaking. We’ve always been a progressive design company. Now it’s a paradigm shift.

How does a bank begin that transition? What are the first steps a bank takes when they understand their technology is antiquated? 

Our international strategy is founded on a partnership with a best-in-class technology company, Glory Global Solutions.  They are an international leader in cash automation.  A bank will make a decision to deploy a Glory cash recyclers for their teller lines, for example, but don’t understand how to design a space or train staff. We help them see the whole picture. It can be overwhelming if that’s not all rationalized.

What are the challenges to implementing technology in branches, and getting employees to adopt them?

It begins with transitioning standard tellers to the universal banker model.  In this transition you risk losing one third of your current team, but are far better off long-term. We try to be upfront with them about that.

Are those employees fired, or are they looking for other, more traditional jobs similar to what they’re used to doing?

A mix of the two. In Dallas, a bank we worked with had their best 20 percent stay, and the middle group got it together and made the switch. It wasn’t in the nature of the bottom half, so they chose to leave. That’s how it’s hitting the whole industry.

What does this transition look like from the customer’s point of view?

All they see is the resulting experience. Consumer don’t think of things in channels. They just want everything to be seamless and created around their needs.

A big part of my talk is about “the branch of the future.”  We don’t think of it that way. There is no perfect “future branch” because we are in a constant state of evolution, which is happening at a more rapid rate than ever before.

Are a lot of people opening accounts online? 

Not many, because most financial institutions have not been able to make the process a good one.  The vast majority of accounts are still opened in branch for this reason. It’ll be an interesting trend to follow—watching financial technology try to catch up to consumer demand. And the whole issue of cybersecurity remains top-of-mind. JPMorgan, Home Depot, Target… These are major brands with millions of consumers. Not everything can happen perfectly online…yet.

How do you see customers adopting all the things that are changing, and how do you educate them on those changes? 

Some activities are digital. Some are absolutely still physical. What’s most important is to realize channel preference per activity. What’s skewing high in a physical environment? Opening an account, getting complex advice, or resolving a problem. Because the branch is evolving to a place of high-value activities, and consumers are coming in less frequently, it is more critical now more than ever to deliver the right experience.