Zürcher Kantonalbank unveils a new branch concept in what it describes as an attempt to reimagine the ‘banking experience for a new era’, reports Douglas Blakey

New compact, pilot, ‘on-the-go’ format bank branches featuring interactive advice tools, free workshops on digital channels and coffee to go are not unique, but this one from Zürcher Kantonalbank merits international coverage.First off, not many pilot, compact bank branches are located within a busy railway station. Nor is it common to associate the solid, respectable and conservative Swiss retail banking market with branch innovation.So, take a bow Zürcher Kantonalbank. The largest cantonal bank and fourth-largest bank overall in Switzerland has opened a striking new branch within Stettbach train station, just outside Zurich.

And it is little wonder that the design team responsible for the branch, Dalziel & Pow, are keen to showcase the project. They describe the project collaboration with Zürcher Kantonalbank as reimagining the “banking experience for a new era”.

Test and learn – at the railway station
It is a ‘test and learn’ pilot as the bank continues to evolve its proposition and range of services to address changing customer needs. This concept differs significantly from the bank’s existing locations.The Zürcher Kantonalbank total branch network is down from 97 outlets six years ago to 60 today – and the bank will close a further five branches by the end of 2022Specifically, the bank will axe branches in Urdorf, Rümlang, Seebach, Seuzach and Winterthur-Seen in the next 18 months.

By the end of 2022, the branch network will have almost halved inside eight years.

But on a positive note, the bank continues to invest in its remaining branches. Within weeks of opening at Stettbach train station, the bank is revealing plans for a second such concept store.

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Peter Luginbühl, head of private banking market area at Zürcher Kantonalbank, says direct exchange remains an unchanged core element of its care strategy.

“Personal advice continues to be of great importance to customers, especially when it comes to complex life events such as retirement or buying a house.

“Against this background, Zürcher Kantonalbank will continue to invest substantially in its branch network in the future and is testing new approaches in pilot projects to further develop the range of services.

Another is planned in the Zurich university district as a further development of the current branch in the university hospital.

Luginbühl adds: “Stettbach is a first step. We are already working on the next big step: the further development of a large branch at a central location. Stettbach will be a test for a number of innovations for a larger, more comprehensive concept that is currently in development.”

In addition to showcasing the bank’s digital offering, interactive advice and coffee, the branch is notable as being flexible, open and welcoming.

Swiss banking style – coffee and chinos

Luginbühl says the large communal table brings a sense of togetherness and supports many types of conversations and sessions. Materials are warm and tactile; bringing a human feel not usually associated with the banking sector.A lot is new: from chinos to cappuccinos. Project manager Moritz Kohler, team leader in multichannel management at Zürcher Kantonalbank, adds: “We depend on feedback from the Zurich population regarding their needs. That’s why we go to the people and open a pilot location at the busy Stettbach train station to reconsider our understanding of a new location and to test initial ideas.“The sporty, elegant clothing of the employees in shades of blue and beige is also striking: chinos with a shirt, blazers for women and jackets for men – casual, without a tie.”

Focus on walk-ins – and 9 million potential customers

In addition to a new brand experience, the focus is primarily on the ability to use digital channels.The bank also plans events. One example of this are free workshops called Hallo Digital on topics such as e-banking, payment solutions for SMEs and tips on avoiding cybercrime.“The logic behind the new services is simple. With more walk-in customers on the area, you expect to gain more knowledge about customer needs through feedback in discussions and, on the other hand, to gain new customers,” adds Kohler.

Sandra Schieferli, head of real estate at Zürcher Kantonalbank, says Stettbach train station is a central transport hub at the gateway to Zurich. It is only a four- or eight-minute train ride away from Stadelhofen train station and Zurich main station.

“Over 9 million people use the station every year. The potential for walk-in customers is correspondingly great,” she concludes.

Dalziel & Pow – new strategic vision

Dalziel & Pow says it developed a new strategic vision in response to evolving customer needs and aspirations.The project embraces the exponential growth of digital platforms and tools, and the changing attitudes towards traditional advertising and marketing channels.The project vision is to inspire personal progress and financial wellbeing, helping people feel inspired and motivated about their future – from saving and investing, to progressing in life, work and business.

As a key part of this vision, Dalziel & Pow developed a new concept for the branch. The solution helps make the transition from purely transactional branches that help customers with banking-only services, to a versatile space for personal progress and financial well-being by bringing together the benefits of physical, digital and human experience.

Dalziel & Pow vision becomes reality at Zürcher Kantonalbank

Paul West, strategy and transformation director at Dalziel & Pow says: “We firmly believe that any brand, regardless of category or sector, that helps people on their journey, will thrive in the new era. It applies just as much to banking as say, getting fit.“We set ourselves the challenge at the very start of this collaboration. If a brand like Nike can engage people in running, we can – with the same creativity and innovation – help a progessive bank engage people in their money and their future.”We’re very excited to see this vision becoming a reality with Zürcher Kantonalbank.”