How Banterra Bank’s major renovation of the Marion West branch creates a place for better customer connections and staff collaborations
Begun as a local bank in Ridgway, Illinois in 1975, Banterra Bank has grown into the largest locally-owned bank in the region with more than $2.4 billion in assets. Serving customers with lending nationwide and locally with 40 locations across six states, Banterra is known for their range of products and services that rival the big banks and a local-style and personal service commitment that’s a hallmark of community-based financial institutions. After successful previous collaborations with Banterra, Adrenaline again partnered with the regional banking powerhouse on their Marion West location to provide retail experience design, a major renovation and a kit-of-parts for subsequent branch builds.
The bank’s key Marion West branch and facility needed an updated approach to move it away from a walk-up wall with an onscreen teller from the drive-up and a VAT tube used to process transactions. With a new retail delivery at its core, the transformed branch experience reduces barriers via a teller pod that prizes collaboration and an expanded back office space that increases staff efficiency. Through multi-site analysis, Adrenaline’s team advised Banterra that they could avoid additional ground-up builds by reusing and optimizing their existing space at Marion West and meet more modern banking expectations from customers and employees at the same time.
Making Branch Investments
Once site analyses were complete, it became obvious that Banterra Bank’s Marion West location was being underutilized and optimization could transform the branch into a substantial heavyweight in the market. By bringing more staff into one facility location and enhancing their work functionality, the branch gets the right people into the right places. Replacing an initial plan to build an additional building adjacent to their main office, the final design resulted in substantial savings. More importantly, this impressive space planning exercise balanced multiple objectives – 1) creating a space that could handle the expansion and the personnel Banterra needed and 2) rolling out a universal banker and conversational pod-based retail branch experience – all under one roof.
By accommodating a universal banker staffing model, the new retail branch and facility design helped Banterra drive a more efficient use of square footage and accommodate the bank’s back of house operations. While cost savings was not the core charge for any upcoming branch build, the efficiencies Adrenaline uncovered in branch planning and design resulted in Banterra realizing significant savings over their planned-for, multimillion dollar branch investments. What began as a multi-site initiative organizing staff across several different branches turned into in a flagship magnet pulling together staff and customers into one efficient, dynamic space.
Addressing Complex Challenges
Banterra’s previous service delivery – focused around using an early version of technology to handle transactions – was unintentionally creating less personalization and more barriers for customers. This ‘teller wall” left a large, inefficient open lobby area that resulted in a disconnected customer service and loan development staff who were spread out in various offices and freestanding cubicles. While staff could field customer questions as they came inside, there needed to be a more unified approach to engagements. How the team achieved that was with universal banker deployment for retail banking and an operations center refresh to enable a more collaborative work environment that would also draw in new staff.
With the drive-up, some simple changes made a big impact. Working collaboratively with the marketing team, Adrenaline’s design incorporated Banterra’s signature green at the top of the structure and on the bollards, along with new VAT tube wraps and external marketing signage, to breathe new life to the external transaction area.
Delineation in the branch was critical to successful space planning. In the original facility floorplan, there wasn’t much division of functionality – making it difficult to tell where the retail environment ended and the staff and back office area began. Needing more accommodation for operations, the design team captured space where safe deposit boxes had been and used it and additional lobby space to create a strong division between operations and retail. In the original footprint, there was a vast, underutilized and inefficient lobby area around the teller wall, using two-thirds of the space. The new design flipped that space allotment, so retail now uses one-third, with the remaining two-thirds devoted to operations to accommodate the additional headcount.
Another significant challenge at Marion West was the placement of teller pods within the space. Initially requesting two pods for service delivery, the team realized that tight quarters in the space plan would make in-branch and drive-up transactions a challenge with dual pod positioning. After several schematic rounds of options, the team landed on a flexible, inventive design solution – one teller pod, but oriented in such a way that it was open and accessible to engage with customers in the branch and in the refreshed drive-up. Now, with this direct connection in place – powered by a universal banker approach – staff can seamlessly flow in and out of the space and provide service from any location.
Implementing Smart Solutions
With the design process complete, the Adrenaline team began executing on its sophisticated phasing plan with a goal of optimizing construction and trade mobilizations, but keeping staff safety in mind since construction was happening during COVID. The team isolated entrances and facilities to keep bank employees and construction crews separate and provided adequate barriers to sequester staff from any of the construction activity taking place. During the construction, it was critical to maintain accessibility for customers throughout the different phases, as the branch remained open to some degree, even during COVID. Keeping the branch operational and the staff working was no small undertaking with a project this big and transformative.
COVID as a Catalyst
Even prior to implementation, COVID had an impact on branch and facility design. The Adrenaline team was actively in the design phase when people began working from home. During this enforced pause, Banterra took the opportunity to rethink staffing and whether some operations team members would be on site at Marion West or transitioned to be permanently remote. In addition to reassessing staffing strategy, they also decided during this time to rid the branch of the safe deposit boxes which were eating up a lot of usable square footage that could be more effectively employed to expand headcount operationally on the facility side, something important to the bank as it concentrated multiple sites into one.
The resulting design changes meant that the schematic plan was not as close and tight. The final floorplan was looser and more comfortable, accommodating hoteling and additional collaborative meeting spaces for remote employees to come into the office. For Banterra, those decisions made during COVID positively affected the overall branch and facility design, resulting in a more progressive delivery from both an operational, staffing and retail offering standpoint. Further, from design through construction, the Adrenaline team continued creatively delivering, even during those most challenging times.
Bringing Brand Into the Branch
Upon completion, the design showcases a beautiful and efficient use of space that serves dual audiences – staff and customers – in an environment that maximizes the bank’s investment. Marion West also highlights updated branding elements, balancing out some of Banterra’s traditional brand colors and bringing more modernization to their palette. On the exterior, brand also comes to life by leveraging what is a natural projection opportunity but one that had been previously underutilized. In the end, despite multiple design challenges and changes, the Marion West branch represents a creative solution to a budget, delivering savings and inspiration in a flagship that stands out as a new North Star for the future.