Implementing a holistic member experience in branch environmental design is no small feat, but University of Wisconsin (UW) Credit Union had high expectations for their prototype Verona branch and subsequent Fitchburg location. Not only did the 270,000+ member credit union charge Adrenaline with designing and deploying an inviting space that ushers you in, but they also wanted that space to reflect an approachable yet modern sensibility that is both tech and touch-enabled. The branch prototype also had to be infused inside and out with an evolving brand identity spearheaded by the client that would remain confidential during the design process. With so many elements to synchronize, who better than Adrenaline to pull off an incredible reveal?
A Warm Welcome
With a goal of integrating key operational elements of their community branch format, UW Credit Union wanted the Verona branch prototype and the subsequent Fitchburg location to achieve a high-level of form + function, ultimately marrying the personal touch of visiting a branch with the convenience of best-in-class financial services technology. To achieve this, the branch needed to harness meaningful tech tools that would strengthen and deepen member relationships and deploy them in a relaxed environment that would feel like a third place for visitors to gather. Freed from the weight of legacy thinking, the transformation team channeled their efforts into a clear-eyed vision that would serve as a guiding hand for the branch design, resulting in elevated and efficient functionality.
The final design purposefully integrates and infuses technology on both the exterior and interior in innovative ways, increasing awareness on the outside and adoption on the inside of the branch. With a soaring entrance, the branch building itself seems to invite people in to discover more. Once inside, the relaxed modern touches put members at ease while the user-friendly technological elements empower them to gain easy access to financial tools. The design also allows credit union staff to leverage the in-branch experience to help advance adoption of technology. This focus on human-centric design, incorporating only useful and user-friendly tech from the outset, ensures a thoughtful intentionality across the member journey.
Design From the Outside > In
The Verona branch is quite literally the talk of the town. The “attract” zone is so effective that community members drive past to catch a glimpse of the branch with its elevated ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and uniquely expressive brand elements. At both branches, people are so captivated they come in to see more of what’s inside. Each location features branding elements that are as seamlessly integrated as they are intentional. The environmental elements throughout the exterior reiterate the brand’s promise of modern convenience centered around the member. Highlighting the overall member experience, UW Credit Union’s brand promise is on display before members even pass through the entryway, highlighting how the financial institution is “Here For Every You.”
On the interior, the refreshed brand voice is translated throughout the space with elements like the dynamic culture wall that contains engaging localized features, including a background map and customized panel that speaks to what makes that community special. Unifying elements consistent across branches include static signage and wall graphics as a branded backdrop for the member experience. In manifesting the credit union’s member journey, it was crucial to ensure there was a consistent thread running from the exterior to the interior, through color and language, providing long and short-term visual projection that spotlights the credit union’s core mission. Strategically deployed elements like digital signage and a focal teller wall contribute to that continuity.
Moving away from the traditional teller line, the optimized branch flow features teller pods, an engagement hub, and a greeter podium, highlighting a highly consultative experience, making it easier for members and staff to interact in a relaxed environment and access mobile banking and other technologies, simultaneously. Further, the design gives the app and many additional digital tools a place to live inside the branch and empowers branch team members to explore best-in-class technology to improve the member experience. The Verona and Fitchburg locations both feature approachable modernity and state-of-the-art branch architecture, reflecting the credit union’s refreshed brand voice and updated delivery model via all of the credit union’s touchpoints.
If the interior of the branch feels like a gathering spot, that’s because it is designed to feel that way. Flowing from the greeter area, the secondary engagement zone is a casual, relaxed space that encourages members to linger a little longer with its comfortable seating, café tables and chairs, and strategic placement of wireless and USB charging stations. The centerpiece of the gathering space is a custom table with stylish millwork that doubles as a coffee table with a family area on one end – small stools and tablets for children’s entertainment. A big hit with kids and their parents alike, the family area is yet another way to integrate useful digital technology, representing comfort and convenience for members.
Culture That Ties it All Together
A primary reason this branch prototype has been so successful is the credit union’s commitment to culture. Investing in the design and member flow in the new space is one thing, but training staff on how to engage in it is mission critical. Understanding the new features available to them helps staff members achieve operational efficiency, while maximizing engagement opportunities that are at the heart of the member journey. UW Credit Union understands that its team members are its most important advocates, so they focus on a holistic retail experience training protocol to walk their team through the space from the outside-in, describing how design choices were made with thoughtful intentionality. That training empowered team members to realize the full benefit of designing the member experience and champion the warm welcome that’s at the center of the credit union’s brand.
A Sense of Place
In the new space, members are requesting tours and employees having participated in Adrenaline’s retail experience training are proud to come to work every day in such a modern and welcoming space. Staff members are conducting demos two to three times per day on the tablets at the engagement hub to highlight and educate members on all the credit union’s digital channels and financial tools. This branch is also getting recognition by industry leaders with HospitalityNet writing on their own accord about UW Credit Union’s human-centric design and what a breath of fresh air this type of approach is in the financial services sector. As UW Credit Union contemplates their future journey, the credit union plans to maximize their branch prototype, prioritizing additional new build opportunities in their targeted growth markets.
In terms of branch business, the Verona location is exceeding all of its goals. In the first two and a half months since opening, the branch is 66% over its consumer lending goal and 55% over its new checking account acquisition goal. Its referral goal for mortgages, investment services and private student loans is a whopping 157% higher than the branch goal. In terms of business volume coming from branches, UW Credit Union tiers their branch locations on a scale from 1 to 3; since opening in mid-July, Verona already ranked as a tier-2 branch, which surpasses a credit union record for branch volume ranking speed. Further, this branch has become a North Star prototype for other branch renovation initiatives throughout the University of Wisconsin Credit Union network.