ING has launched ING Express – a mobile branch in the Netherlands that integrates an operational office with a coffee bar – a new take on the mobile bank branch. Leendert Tange, co-founder of design agency Storeage and Peter van der Werf, manager for formula management at ING, discuss the initiative with Meghna Mukerjee.
It is a bank banch and it is on the move. ING Express is the new concept bank branch from ING in the Netherlands that can be driven around in a box and assembled anywhere outdoors within an hour by only one person.
The Netherlands-based retail design agency, Storeage, that created ING Express, came up with the fully operational model in less than 6 months. With more bank branches shutting down, ING Express is an innovative way to stay in touch with customers and build relationships with potential clients, says partner and co-founder at Storeage, Leendert Tange.
Given the mobile nature of ING Express, Tange feels it is “beneficial” for ING to be present in high traffic locations.
“This is ING saying we want to build a relationship with you, which lasts longer than a visit to an ATM machine or branch, that is about us coming to our customer versus our consumer coming to us,” said Tange.
ING Express is mainly service oriented.
“Not only do the people working there know how to direct you towards the right products and services from ING, they also excel in service mindedness, as expressed in the cup of espresso,” says Tange.
With the absence of an ATM machine on ING Express, no money transactions are possible. However, there are laptops at ING Express and tellers have access to the sales station, so customers can carry out some banking operations.
Currently there is one ING Express unit that has started operations since the beginning of September. The branch “folds out” from a box, measuring 4 metres long x 2.5 metres high x 2 metres wide when folded, and can accommodate approximately 15 people at one time including two tellers, support staff, additional staff behind the counters, and visitors.
The box opens from both sides to reveal a modular coffee bar and office in ING’s bright orange corporate colour. The coffee bar has an espresso machine and small kitchen.
“There is a wall that rotates outwards and that creates a lot more space. The challenge was to find a solution for when it is raining, as it often does in the Netherlands,” says Tange.
ING Express can switch from having a coffee bar to a lemonade stand and currently runs on two kinds of concepts – one where customers pay for their drinks and the other where customers leave a donation for charity.
Eva van Veldhoven of Storeage was lead designer for ING Express. There were, however, challenges in the execution of ING Express that Storeage had to overcome.
“To maximise the functionality of the unit, we needed to provide a space where customers can get financial advice and have more or less private conversations in a separate area,” says Tange.
On a technical note, physical stability of ING Express was a concern for Storeage as it had to be “made sure that the unit can take the pressure from the wind”.
“So it is remarkable that it [ING Express] can be set up in an hour,” adds Tange.
So far, ING Express has visited two locations in the Netherlands – one outside the main ING office when the mobile-branch was introduced to all ING employees in Netherlands, and the other when the Wheel of Energy event took place in Amsterdam and ING took part in a charity race.
Peter van der Werf, manager for formula management at ING, Netherlands, says ING is choosing locations for ING Express where there is a lot of traffic and people have time for a cup of coffee, so that ING can reach customers in a “non-intrusive way”.
“We are looking to have a friendly chat with a potential customer or the customers of ING. We thought that when you drink a cup of coffee you have more time to have a relaxed session and chat about anything,” Werf tells RBI.
“The ultimate goal is to have a dedicated team going through the Netherlands the whole year round. Of course you have to keep in mind the weather conditions, and that weekends are more expensive than weekdays,” says Werf.
Tange says the same unit can be reused a number of times, depending on the regular upkeep of ING Express and the wear and tear that it incurs.
“In the end it is pretty robust. It all depends on cleaning and damages that will happen, and repairing such damages. It is very sturdy design-wise,”says Tange.
ING Express is a local initiative particular to the Netherlands but if the concept is successful, “it is very easy to duplicate and replicate in other countries so that might be one of the possibilities” says Werf.
Storeage has previously worked on several projects with banks to come up with retail branches that are innovative.
Storeage stared its work with incorporating a sporting feel into one of ABN AMRO bank’s branches in the Netherlands “to give it an energetic environment”.
“When we finished we realised that actually the idea of physical branches in banking is an idea that exists for branding purposes, without necessarily offering any real service to the client,” said Tange.
Storeage has also created several branches for Radobank in the Netherlands at railway stations.
Tange feels a mobile branch like ING Express is more cost effective for banks.
Says Tange, “There is a downside to it in terms of data – the ATM is harder to integrate because most of the time it requires specific security measures. But from a service point of view, you have got one unit, which is moving so this is offers top of mind awareness.
“It is expanding on the portfolio of your existing customers as well acquiring new customers”