Updated headquarters and flagship branch create meaningful experiences for customers as the bank expands their reach in burgeoning East Texas
VeraBank is a Texas-based community bank with $3 billion in assets serving East and Central Texas with its network of 38 local branches. A financial institution that prides themselves on their “East Texas Roots” and “Independent Spirit” VeraBank is deeply committed to their customers, serving them through a range of competitive products and convenient technology, and to their communities, supporting them through signature service at the branch.
In 2017, the bank began planning what started as more of a minor renovation process to their Henderson, Texas headquarters to update and modernize the cornerstone branch. After several iterations of opportunity assessments, it became clear that the location needed a heavier design hand with a major renovation approach, a process that continued expanding even through to the implementation phase of the project.
Separately, VeraBank was pursuing a new flagship location in a new market. Working with Adrenaline, the new College Station branch would be the first ground-up, design-build the two companies had collaborated on – after many renovations and conversion projects together across their branch network. With College Station, this would be the first real opportunity to envision and execute a North Star for the bank, a unique opportunity to do something distinctly different and contemporary, bringing them into the modern era.
Both Henderson and College Station involved retail experience design, digital signage, branded music, exterior signage, a kit of parts, and cultural training for staff inside the branches. Adrenaline’s work was comprehensive; there wasn’t anything the company did not influence or touch, from design through to implementation. Prior to these branch projects, VeraBank had been deploying a more classic design in their locations with a scheduled one to two remodels, refinishes and refreshes per year.
With striking results, both of these branch projects resulted in design decisions that would inspire and inform additional branch updates for VeraBank into the future.
An Updated Home Base
Prior to the major interior renovation with Adrenaline at the Henderson branch, VeraBank had taken on a few small interior modifications themselves, like setting up a two-teller pod and completing basic finish work. But these were minor cosmetic updates, especially when compared to the major renovation that was about to take place at HQ. Deploying new teller pods, VeraBank wanted to consider additional transactional formats that would update both the form and function of the branch.
From an operational standpoint, a clear necessity at Henderson was the need to differentiate the retail and commercial lending areas of the branch and create a sense of place for the commercial lending suite. Beginning several years earlier via an experience planning session and market study, VeraBank was working to determine how to deliver banking differently in their branches. One key conclusion was to more clearly translate the operational aspects of the branch – retail banking and lending – into the way the space functions and flows. The new footprint would reinforce that decision.
Prior to 2020, an acquisition of several branches in the Austin area – a prime growth target market for the bank – resulted in putting the Henderson branch renovation on hold. Once those branch updates were complete, however, VeraBank had the opportunity to really look at their headquarters with fresh eyes. As a result, they knew it was time to do something grander and more sweeping there. With such a large space needing to be reworked – but without budget to take the space down to the studs – the imaginative design would need to balance complex and competing challenges.
With the greenlight to move forward, the Adrenaline team got to work on a design that would use budget in the most judicious way possible, but still give VeraBank something spectacular for their Henderson home.
With many of the original historic elements removed over the years, the space was lacking the kind of personality the bank is known for. Low ceilings and shadowy corners added to a dated and dark feeling. To update the interior, the design leaned into the Mad Men style of the building and brought back some of the period features that had been removed over the years. Era inspired elements include terrazzo tile flooring set at the diagonal, a biomorphic designed carpet and midcentury style furniture choices. Refreshed lighting solved for dark spaces and low ceilings.
Schematically, the inside of the branch felt too large for the level of activity taking place there and needed more energy focused around the Attract Zone, but two entries into the space were making traffic flow a challenge. Despite 70/30 percent split of foot traffic, both entries were important to maintain. Further, because VeraBank had a corporate side and a retail branch side to accommodate, the design would need to reflect a needed functional split within the space.
Answering the need for separation, the team architect came up with an inspired solution – creating the central conference space in the middle to separate the two functional areas. This provided an operational division of space and gave VeraBank a dramatic central feature – a stunning showpiece – that not only defines Henderson as an unbelievably unique retail branch, but also achieves a level of cachet with an elevated feature that you might expect to see in a high-end corporate environment.
Further, within the massive hotel lobby-like retail area, the design focused on defining this large space with another completely unique signature piece, a central circular millwork suite. The suite contains two full pods, a sit-down ADA-compliant pod, plus storage solutions and a smart workspace – which filled the practical need for a work room for those staff and employees. Additional design features were implemented through a modified kit-of-parts to adapt to what was existing at the branch, but also achieve a level of elevation befitting a corporate headquarters.
In executing the design, the staff would be working in the space throughout the renovation, which presented particular challenges in phasing the construction. The Adrenaline implementation team was able to keep VeraBank completely operational during a major renovation. This was no small feat, considering the level of change the branch was undergoing. The construction team was so committed to keeping VeraBank operational during renovation, they even went as far as deconstructing by-hand the brick tile in the space, hauling it out one wheelbarrow at a time.
To be successful, the three and a half phase construction plan paid special attention to the bank’s minimum staffing requirements and based renovation around having enough space to shuffle staff around and keep them working. This meant sectioning off offices, completing remediation, construction, painting and flooring, and then swapping staff out again. On the retail side, the team put temporary partitions throughout the branch and used some existing teller pods from a previous renovation to continue meeting customer needs while the branch was under construction.
Even with such a detailed phasing plan, the process could only be successful thanks to the flexible and thoughtful VeraBank branch staff.
A New-Build Flagship
With the Henderson headquarters success and a consistent growth mindset, VeraBank was ready to capitalize on another expansion opportunity. Their next branch in College Station would reach a new, younger audience in a dynamic college town with a new branch, built from the ground-up. After purchasing the property, VeraBank worked with Adrenaline to build a budget, develop a timeline and plan for the new construction project. With a small loan processing office already in the market and a teller pod for transactions, VeraBank did have some local presence, but they wanted a much bigger splash in the market with a new standout flagship branch.
When Adrenaline started working on the new College Station branch, VeraBank told the design team they had a blank slate and said to start fresh and “show us how you would build our next branch.” Through a long and rich relationship with VeraBank, Adrenaline intuitively understood what they were looking for and were able to really visualize a new look for them. With a rapport and trust built over years of collaboration, the kickoff meeting was a fruitful way to gather VeraBank’s dreams and goals and begin mood boarding and walking through design options to explore.
With an existing and well-defined customer experience program Adrenaline previously developed for VeraBank, this was a rich opportunity to explore how to take that interior experience and project it to the outside world. The glass exposures are a distinctive and ownable way to elevate the VeraBank brand and put them on the map in a new market. Because Adrenaline had worked with VeraBank for so long, the mood boarding and ideation was highly targeted and the resulting design direction was immediately approved.
For the design, VeraBank liked the look of a lot of glass on a building and wanted to capitalize on the exposure it brings from the outside looking in. College Station would be VeraBank’s more modern, retail technology focused branch, leveraging branding and experience oriented visual elements in the space. This branch would also be their platform for new technology in the form of two ITMs on the property – serving as a bridge from the physical to the digital and uniting the whole VeraBank customer journey.
Design standards for the space include: highly-visible, integrated master signage; recognizable architectural elements and a modern architectural style; locally-relevant or interesting building materials with high-contrast and color signals; and an optimized relationship of retail windows and interior adjacencies for outward projection of brand. Typically, VeraBank is a financial institution that is uniquely themselves and they unreservedly wear their brand on display. But in College Station, they weren’t able to use their signature orange anywhere in the branch because of college town rivalries.
The lack of brand orange in the branch posed a unique challenge for the design team. Where customers would typically see a large orange focal wall in any of their branches, College Station would necessitate a reimagined focus for the backdrop. The design team decided to carry through a textured stone wall that compliments the exterior stone material, adding a consistency as you move from the outside in. By utilizing that material on the inside as well, it helped to make the design feature pop and is a smart way to depart from the big orange wall, which is their signature.
The tower feature is also a stand-out design element and an opportunity to create something distinctive. It influenced and played with other features in the branch, resulting in waterfall architectural elements that became an ongoing theme, as seen in the interior millwork and other areas of the branch. With this new flagship branch, certainly there’s nothing quite like it in College Station, and there aren’t many buildings like it in the entire state. Being able to start with a blank slate with no boundaries on design really unleashed a lot of creativity on both sides, resulting in a completely original style of building and one that stands tall across Texas.
Banking On the Move
Each time Adrenaline has partnered with VeraBank on branch design – whether it’s a renovation or ground-up build – the banking leader gets even closer to their ultimate goals for their regional bank following their rebrand in 2019. Leveraging Adrenaline’s broad financial services expertise, VeraBank is able to drive more meaningful experiences for their customers and expand their reach in the growing East and Central Texas regions. The result is branches that represent an evolution of their brand into the branch environment.
The Henderson headquarters represents a showplace for VeraBank, creating a functional and beautiful home for the growing regional retail bank. Through the power of design, VeraBank shifts its current classic approach to a next-generation customer experience that employs efficiencies to empower staff to interact with customers without the barrier of a teller line. It creates a platform for new experiences that elevate the brand beyond their traditional Citizens National Bank roots and updates retail concepts into something signature for customers and staff to experience.
The College Station branch is an absolute beacon for VeraBank. It’s a completely original design that does exactly what they wanted it to do – really attract people on the outside and draw them inside. As a market flagship, other branch builds and renovations will be greatly influenced by the design, fitting well into their portfolio, but with an evolved level of sophistication from furniture to fixtures. The College Station design is so influential, VeraBank is already taking the flagship vision to the future working on a new ground-up build and two new renovations.
With these two branches, VeraBank proudly sticks a stake in the ground in a new market and doubles down in its home market, but with a new vision of the future.