United Overseas Bank (UOB) has recently launched its new small-format digital branches. As part of its developing network strategy, UOB is focusing on densely-populated locations such as shopping malls, hotels and hospitals.

The intention of UOB’s latest development in its branches evolution was to deliver a differentiated, market leading and most importantly, engaging and exciting customer experience with a greater emphasis on customer engagement.

It intentionally located its newest pilots in the recently renovated high footfall locations of Suntec Mall and Farrer Park in Singapore.
UOB is well known for providing a thoughtful, evolutionary approach to its physical network but this time it was looking to take a bigger step forward and therefore engaged allen international to provide new thinking for a differentiated customer journey to attract, entice and welcome new customers.

Creative brief
Working closely with UOB’s internal design team, allen developed a creative brief and delivered a journey towards the next generation of banking on a number of levels. The brief included the following aspects:

  • To create a new customer journey;
  • Creative utilisation of physical space, and
  • To promote and educate customers to the benefit of self-service channels.

And to achieve these by:

  • Engaging customers in the branch environment through needs-based solutions rather than product-led selling, and
  • Embracing digital technology to help solve these challenges.

By looking at all these new customer solutions and innovations, UOB could assess potential deployment across its network as well as integrating a new sales journey.

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UOB’s customer audience is across all age groups and life- stages but these pilots were intentionally aimed at increasing awareness for the young professionals and families.

The customer proposition was challenging but well defined and at its core looked to provide easy and efficient banking with clear choice and education across all channels.

Also it sought to create an exciting, engaging experience and the provision of a more rewarding sales experience for the customer.

The Discovery Zone
The core of the solution was the creation of ‘The Discovery Zone’ to promote UOB’s new ‘Dreams’ concept- financial education digital communications – in an interactive and engaging manner. The intention was to encourage conversations about personal financial goals in a non-intimidating and discrete environment.

The Discovery Zone was to create a platform for staff to engage with all customer groups whether it be an informal one-to-one conversation with a customer or a more formal presentation or demonstration to invitees.

Content for all the screens has been created to enable a consistent sales process, delivering short movies which encapsulate the benefits of specific products. Customers can browse products through interactive portals or have a one-to-one with a newly trained universal banker who is able to access content in one of the semi-private meeting pods.

allen international looked at showcasing the latest yet relevant to this market interactive technologies to engage with customers and demonstrate the benefits of alternative channels and individual product details. The design provided new solutions with regard to the consultation process for the roles of the personal and business banker as well as streamlining existing process systems with new interactive technology and providing easy migration from the counter to service solutions.

These visually stunning and digitally-enhanced environments are not only attracting new customers but educating existing customers as to the benefits of alternative products as well as UOB’s mobile banking channels. The new retail format is expected to become a natural extension of their already-effective distribution strategy.

Staff development
Just as key to the development of its bricks and mortar solution, UOB has been developing its staff with creation of the role of the more highly trained universal banker.

These universal bankers will be capable of adapting to the broad range of individual customer enquiries and therefore be able to undertake a number of roles within the branch, reactively changing roles during busier times of the day as they mingle with customers. This replaces the older, staid staff model of sales staff standing protected behind counters waiting for customers to come to them. UOB wanted their staff to go out and actively engage with the customer.

Interestingly, due to Allen International’s established regional Singapore office and understanding of the local consumer habits, the design was tailored to suit this very specific market. The use of large highly visible interactive displays that work so well in other nearby countries are not so suited to the more reserved Singaporean.

The solution was therefore to create interactivity on a smaller scale within the branch and the larger digital displays provided one way content for the customer to watch.

Careful consideration of zoning principles, traditional counter services and sales pods as well as all fixed furniture was critical from early on in the development process and how the staff would position themselves in relation to their customers and how the space would be physically populated was all carefully thought out and developed during the design journey.

Attention to detail
Although there was a challenging schedule, UOB ensured that there was always time provision for mocking up of all the key elements within the branch, which resulted in an ongoing refinement process that ensured the quality of the materials and the detailing was of the highest retail standards.

From the initial engagement of allen international to the opening of the first branch at Suntec, the process took only four months. This is testament to the close working relationship fostered between UOB’s internal team, its senior management approval group and allen international, which augmented its Singapore team by flying in technical specialists to work locally in order to meet the required timeframe and high quality design intent.

UOB is currently in the process of gathering the required analytics in terms of customer engagement and uplift and will look at any potential refinements to the pilots prior to bringing this exciting new proposal into its network.

allen international is assisting in this process and is ready for the next step in UOB’s march forward, following on from this roll out.

The most satisfying result for allen international was to see how the staff functioned within the newly opened branch, engaging with the customers in the Discovery Zone in a much more natural manner than in the previous format; coming out to meet and chat with them on the customer’s ground.

UOB’s continuing journey of creating innovative, engaging branch experiences has taken its next big step forward.