CIBC has worked with design consultancy allen international to develop state-of-the-art branches to optimise customer experience. The Canadian bank is using its innovative branch design as a template for full-service and small teller-free convenience branches, including airport outlets. Robin Arnfield reports

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) opened a 6,000 square foot full-service concept branch based on the new design in Courtice, near Toronto, in the first quarter of 2013. As RBI’s June 2013 issue (number 690) reported, the concept branch design received rave reviews from customers and staff.

"The exterior and interior design used in the concept branch is now standard for all our new branches and our refurbished branches," says Lynne Kilpatrick, CIBC’s Senior Vice President, Channel Strategy and Integration.

"We think that the design achieves a lovely balance between being contemporary and modern on the one hand and warm and inviting on the other. The two don’t always go hand in hand."

As of March 2015, CIBC has deployed its new design in 35 branches, out of a total of 1,131 branches. By the end of 2015, over 50 branches will have the new design.

Branch transformation
A July 2014 survey of major international banks by ATM Marketplace, sponsored by Italian banking software vendor Auriga, found that 54% of respondents had a branch transformation programme.

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The survey, published in ATM-Mobile Integration Guide: Strategies for Successful Omnichannel Banking, found that 38% of respondents had branches of the future where they test new self-service applications.

Like other banks which have engaged in branch transformation projects, CIBC has fundamentally redesigned the traditional branch layout.

CIBC’s full-service branch design features highly visible and mobile concierge/cross-sell staff and an integrated events space with segmented areas within the outlet for its Imperial Service and Business customers.

Increasing engagement between customers and staff
Every detail of the branch is designed to create an engaging space for both clients and staff, complete with high-tech digital displays replacing all in-branch posters, as well as interactive iPads and laptops to encourage on-premise online banking registration and product research.

At the core of the branch is a Service Island with a sit down meeting space which enables branch staff to welcome clients and serve their immediate needs.

The Service Island also has an active waiting area with a large digital wall backdrop. The branch features very visible and open sales offices, warm, home-inspired lighting, as well as a multi-functional client lounge/seminar space.

"We bring new technology to the front in our new branches so clients can explore our digital banking capabilities," says Kilpatrick. "The concierge staff in our new branches interact with customers and demonstrate new self-service technology using tablets, and there are also tablet areas where customers can use bank-supplied tablets."

"CIBC’s new branches provide an environment where people meet people, and the transaction element is secondary to building customer relationships," says international retail banking consultant David Cavell.

He continues: "At a time when digital banking is so important, this is confirmation that branch banking still has a major role to play.
"An important aspect of CIBC’s new branches is their flexibility, which means they are able to accommodate the next big technology development that comes down the track.

"Another benefit is that their digital displays don’t just offer product advertising, but they also show local community information.
"I believe that community outreach is very important for banks."

Airport branches
Under a multi-year contract with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, CIBC is Pearson International Airport’s exclusive financial institution sponsor.

The deal, announced in December 2013, gives CIBC the exclusive right to advertise inside the airport, although HSBC has the advertising rights for gangways. CIBC also has the exclusive right to offer banking services through its ATMs and branches at the airport.

In February 2015, CIBC announced a multi-year sponsorship deal as the exclusive financial services partner of the Union Pearson Express, the new rail link from downtown Toronto to Pearson International Airport, which will open in spring 2015.

CIBC will provide multi-currency ATMs at Union Pearson’s (UP) stations at Union Station in Toronto and Pearson, and will offer the "CIBC UPstairs" travellers lounge at Union Station. It will also sponsor the Wi-Fi service aboard UP Express trains and at its stations, and have exclusive advertising rights on the trains.

"We were excited with the opportunity to open branches at Pearson," says Kilpatrick. "CIBC is a bank that wants to be where its clients are, and Pearson is a great venue for us. We have been able to bring our branch presence and our brand to life at the airport in a very relevant way to our clients. The results from our airport branches are exceeding our sales and marketing expectations. The ROI on our branding and marketing efforts at Pearson are measuring well."

Around 37 million travellers a year pass through Pearson, which is the largest retail location in Canada, according to Kilpatrick.
Each year, 100,000 new immigrants arrive in Canada at Pearson, and 40,000 people work at the airport.

"We took the basics of the concept branch design and reinterpreted it in a very modern way for the airport environment," says Kilpatrick.

"We had to think what travellers want, what newcomers to Canada want, and what airport employees want, and what design to deploy in terms of innovative branches and ATMs to better serve them. Our focus at Pearson is to strengthen our relationship with existing clients and be respectful for what they need in their time available at the airport."

Before travellers go through security, they are short of time and under pressure. "Once they have passed through security they have more time for relaxing and for interacting with us," says Kilpatrick.

Airport branch format
CIBC has opened six full-service branches at Pearson, five of which are post-security, in addition to 27 ATMs.

"Our smallest airport branch format is the Express branch, which is 150 square feet and is designed for short ten minute interactions between staff and clients," says Kilpatrick.

"We have three Express branches in the domestic and U.S. departure areas, which sell travel insurance and credit cards, and have ATMs offering Canadian and US dollars. Travellers can also open daily banking accounts at the branches."

CIBC also has a different type of Express branch which offers foreign exchange over the counter and at an ATM in Terminal 1’s International departures area. "This branch has proved very popular with international travellers," says Kilpatrick.

CIBC serves all airport travellers with foreign exchange, and offers preferential rates to its clients, Kilpatrick says.

In Terminal 1’s domestic departure area, CIBC has installed a lounge-style branch which is designed for longer conversations between staff and customers and has a welcoming and open environment.

"It is a place for people to relax and get organised, for example charging up their smartphone and doing some work," says Kilpatrick. "You can also open accounts and buy products such as mortgages and insurance in this branch."

CIBC has opened a branch outside Pearson’s security area which is mainly intended for people who work at the airport.

"We offer special rates and fees to airport employees at this branch," says Kilpatrick. "It has proved popular with airport employees, and we’re opening a lot of accounts at this branch for them."

"Airport authority staff and workers in the airport shopping mall are a very good target market," says Cavell.

CIBC operates the Aventura pop-up lounge at Pearson, named after its Aventura travel rewards credit card, which is not a branch and is open to anyone.

"You can get free services such as manicures and shoe-shines at the lounge," says Kilpatrick. "The free luggage carts provided by CIBC have proved very popular with travellers, as demonstrated by their many positive Tweets highlighting the free carts."

"The airport is a great place to market our brand, provide special offers and provide convenient banking services," Kilpatrick adds.

"We are planning a number of new marketing initiatives at Pearson. For example, we are the lead sponsor for the Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games (in July-August 2015), and will be doing some fun, special marketing at Pearson for the games which will enable us to engage with our clients and acquire new clients."

Airports are well-known as a profitable venue for marketing credit cards.

While marketing the Aventura card is the focus for CIBC’s credit card sales at Pearson, the airport branches sell a full set of the bank’s products and services, says Kilpatrick.

The airport branches use Compass, CIBC’s new branch-based desktop application which offers sophisticated cross-selling capabilities and sales fulfilment.

New immigrants
CIBC has a welcome zone in Pearson in international arrivals for newcomers to Canada. Immigrants are an important target market, because they typically lack existing banking relationships in Canada.

"The welcome zone provides an opportunity for us to create new relationships with newcomers, and help them figure out what to do next," says Kilpatrick.

"We introduce them to our bank and let them know where to find us. We don’t do a hard sell, but we do capture sales leads and can open accounts if this is what immigrants want."

Convenience branches
CIBC is currently piloting two small-format convenience branches with the same look and feel as the new design for CIBC’s full-service branches, but functionally different – one in Whistler, British Columbia, and one in Toronto, both of which opened in 2014. "We will be opening an additional convenience branch in Regina, Saskatchewan, later this year," says Kilpatrick.

Each convenience branch is 1,300 square feet, with two full-function ATMs, two shared private sales offices, and capacity for three to four staff.

There are no traditional counter services or tellers, and customers receive assisted self service via Universal Bankers who are equipped with tablets.

"The client and staff members work together to satisfy the client’s transaction needs through the ATMs, online terminals and tablets," says Kilpatrick.

"Staff move fluidly throughout the branch to help clients with their needs, for example, showing them how to use mobile banking apps or opening accounts for them."

Patrick Myron, senior vice president of retail network strategy/sales analytics at Rockland, Massachusetts-based Rockland Trust, told the BAI Retail Delivery Conference in Chicago in November 2014 that universal bankers work best not in traditional branches but in branches with more open layouts where staff can move around and engage with customers.

Branch strategy
Like other North American banks, CIBC is seeing a move to smaller branches in response to the growth in digital banking transactions.

"We build branches that are appropriate for a particular market," says Kilpatrick. "So we do have large branches, but increasingly our branches are smaller with a greater focus on sales and advice. All over the world, digital banking transactions are increasing and branch-based traditional transactions are declining, so we are adapting to this trend."

Like other banks around the world, CIBC is finding that its digital channels are its largest transaction channels, Kilpatrick says.

"We’re working on developing mobile-ATM integration services to enable our clients to interact with our ATMs through their mobile devices," she says.

"We have robust personalised marketing capabilities on all our digital channels and are working on integrating our mobile and Internet marketing.

"This means that clients will enjoy a consistent marketing message on multiple channels and start an application on one channel and finish it on another."

In May 2014, Forrester Research rated CIBC as the leader for mobile banking functionality among the top five Canadian banks which the consultancy reviewed.

Forrester rated CIBC as the leader for online banking functionality in January 2015 among the five largest Canadian banks.

Remote deposit
In December 2013, CIBC became the first Canadian bank to offer customers remote deposit capture of cheques using mobile devices.

Its eDeposit service allows clients to deposit cheques by taking a picture using their smartphone and CIBC’s Mobile Banking App. Over 2 million cheques were deposited using eDeposit in 2014.

"We’re currently piloting a number of ATMs with cheque scanners where you can deposit cheques without using an envelope," says Kilpatrick.

"As with all tests and pilots, we ?will monitor the client experience and performance of our remote deposit capture ATMs prior to making any further decisions about a national rollout."

CIBC has a total of 4,215 ATMs, Kilpatrick concludes.