The ROI of alternative distribution channels may rise
and rise – but the branch will remain essential. Mauritius
Commercial Bank has transformed its cold, grey branches into
vibrant department store-like centres. Duygu Tavan discusses the
retail store concept with retail banking chief manager Alain Law


Banks are no longer just banks. They are your friends on
Facebook, they are the micro-bloggers you follow on Twitter, the
broadcasters whose videos you watch on YouTube. Yet, the good old
branch remains a vital and entrenched channel.

It is just its look that is
changing. Bank branches are no longer just bank branches

Banks across the world have
re-adjusted their branch concepts to serve what they perceive as
the most important aspect of their banking proposition.

Lloyds TSB in the UK has promoted
its community banking concept and National Bank of Greece has got
i-bank, an electronic banking store. Franco-Belgian bank Dexia
leads with an open store concept and Bancolombia’s branch model is
based on the Facebook concept of a social hub.

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In Africa, it is Mauritius
Commercial Bank (MCB) that has adopted a very different branch
banking proposition.


Department store

Box of pullquotes to illustrate what MCB staff are saying about the branch transformationMCB’s branch design is based on the department store
concept, integrating the various service areas and customer

The bank, which controls 40% of the
Mauritian banking market’s deposits, regularly promotes cars or
kitchens, for instance, and operates in an open-space

RBI spoke to Alain Law
Min, chief manager retail banking at MCB, about the changes the
bank has gone through.

MCB initially began a
re-organisation nine years ago, decentralising front office
activities to be closer to the customer, be more proactive and,
overall, be more efficient by centralising some back office

“Although the process and
organisational changes brought some marked improvements, these were
not very visible to the customer,” Min says. “Our infrastructure
was not very attractive, it was very transactional, staff were
behind glass panes.”

In 2007, the bank commissioned
UK-based design consultancy allen international to transform its
head office branch.

“This was very challenging since
the branch was located on three floors covering 4,600 square
metres,” says Min.

“It took us over a year to
transform the branch because we did not close it down during the
refurbishment. The new branch was launched in 2007. It was and
still is very innovative in terms of its new design and

Tellers were moved on the first
floor and a sales area was put on the ground floor.

And the end result has exceeded his
expectations, Min says.

“We had positive feedback from our
customers on both the open, modern layout and improved service
levels,” he adds. “For me, the biggest benefit was from the
increased motivation of our staff.”

The branch redesign included new
service standards and concepts, including a comprehensive and
practical training programme for staff in order to operate more
effectively in the new environment, which, inter alia,
consisted of role plays in a refurbished branch.

The bank also introduced an express
service desk for quick transactions, such as collecting credit
cards or cheque books or to request a payment transfer, which
helped the bank increase cross-sale opportunities.

“Customers who are served rapidly
are more likely to listen to a branch adviser,” says Min. “We had a
low cross-sale ratio before and the redesign made a big


Large promotional

In line with the department store
concept, the bank created a large promotional space, visible
through the ‘shop’ windows, which MCB regularly uses for joint
promotional activities with third-party vendors.”

The bank has so far partnered with
car dealers to promote discounts on car loans and leasing
facilities, including Jaguar, Hyundai and Ford.

The bank also has other

“Our latest campaign related to our
housing loan promotion with discount vouchers offered for Schmidt
fitted kitchens and for electrical appliances,” Min says.

“The fitted kitchens and appliances
were on display in the head office main branch and two other
branches. This enabled us proactively to market our home loan
offer, benefitting from the high consumer footfall in the selected

MCB holds four-to-five such
promotions per year in four or five branches.

So far, the bank has completed the
redesign of 38 out of 40 branches, which further enhanced its brand
image, Min says. The other three branch redesigns are expected to
be finished within the next three months.

“We regularly review the branch
formats and our branch,” he says. “In this respect, we will be
moving two of our existing branches to shopping malls in the near
future. In anticipation of these two movements, we kept the level
of investment to a strict minimum.”

Another new concept is what Min
calls ‘active waiting’: the new open space exposes waiting
customers to posters, brochures or digital screens as well as
branch greeters and advisers who approach them to propose new
services or products.

“The new open environment has
created a dramatic change for our customer advisers, they now
interact more proactively with customers.”

Min says, as part of the ongoing
branch development, the bank will extend its dedicated lounge areas
for premium and business customers to selected branches.

The bank has already converted
three of its branches into kiosks focusing on sales, dedicated a
newly opened branch at Ebene (a city with a high proportion of
financial and IT professionals) to the premium market.

It is also in the process of
converting a university branch to cater for the 18-25 year old
segment, as well as providing dedicated lounge areas for the
premium segments in at least five main branches for their
full-service banking, Min says.


A series of before and after photos of the MCB branch revamp