Putting Community in the Center of Business Banking

Umpqua Bank redesigns its branches around the customer experience.

Umpqua Bank has become well known for delivering a unique customer experience. The community bank, headquartered in Portland, OR, used innovative design and technology to transform its 150 retail branches from standard banking fare into what feels more like a retail store or community center. Customers can read the paper or watch financial news on plasma displays, enjoy free coffee in the bistro-like seating areas, surf the Internet, download music, and, of course, shop for banking products.

"We wanted to make it a Saks Fifth Avenue kind of retail experience for our customers," says Lani Hayward, executive vice president of creative strategies at Umpqua Bank. "We have our customers saying the best part of their day was at the bank. With the relevant design, the retail model turned into a true shopping experience.''

The next-generation stores, designed by Ziba, have helped to give Umpqua a leadership position in the markets it serves. According to an internal survey, Umpqua carries an average of 3.8 accounts per household compared to 3.4 accounts per household for its competitors. Additionally, a survey by Harland Clarke conductedearlier this year found that Umpqua's average deposit relationship and loanrelationship are $27,700 and$39,200 respectively, versus the industry average for its peer groupof $17,800 and $22,900, respectively.

That success prompted Umpqua's more recent endeavor: a new branch model designed to attract and retain small business customers. "Small business customers are our bread and butter," Hayward says. Umpqua Bank was originally founded to provide loggers and farmers a banking alternative. "We look for ways to show that we care about them."

The new branch model, also designed by Ziba, was envisioned to function as a business community center. "We found through our research that small businesses do not necessarily have facilities to meet with their clients," says Steve McCallion, Ziba's creative director.

The design includes a large "community table" embedded with state-of-the-art laptops. Small businesses and organizations can use the space for business gatherings during or after business hours. They can also use the Product Wall feature, an entire wall with six interactive plasma displays that can turn into one large screen for presentations.

The bank hosts Business Therapy events in many branches to bring local businesses together. Consultants lead roundtable discussions in areas such as finance, marketing, or human resources. It also hosts Ask an Expert, videoconferencing with licensed investment consultants and the like. "The notion is to collaborate. It's important for small businesses run by one or two people to network in person and get those ideas out,'' says Hayward. "Their day-to-day operations really depend on good advice."

The bank also created a business-oriented social networking site called the Local Space to complement the branch events. So far, the site has profiles of 273 registered local businesses. Umpqua Bank has recently teamed up with the City of Portland to engage more participants.

Another activity, called Local Spotlight, allows local businesses to promote their products inside the branch. Select retailers exhibit merchandise in a display area for three months. Customers can browse such items as office furnishings, accessories, or apparel and shop right on the spot. "This is one tangible way of making our relationships alive," says Hayward.

A touchscreen called the Community E-bulletin Board allows any customer to post a community event and download pictures, and serves as a survey tool for the bank. Based on some of the feedback gathered via the E-bulletin Board and internal surveys, the bank has expanded more popular elements of the community-focused design to new branches. One such feature is the Discovery Wall, a user-friendly alternative to brochure racks. Touchscreen computers along one wall of the branch guide customers through available products and services; customer can then print brochures on-demand.

Hayward says design serves as Umpqua's billboard. "Space reflects Umpqua's core value of being a community bank," she says. "Small businesses know this is an inviting space where they can collaborate. It all comes down to people, space, [and] resources.''

Ultimately, Umpqua has found that community-focused design is good business. Despite the recession and the increase in small business closures over the past 17 months, Umpqua's accounts per household and services per household for retained businesses have continued to increase.