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Westpac unveils its new branches of the future

 

10 December 2012

Bank branches are undergoing their biggest transformation in a generation as the glass security screens disappear and customers are able to have face-to-face conversations with staff in a new, relaxed lounge-style environment.

In the next step of its revolutionary “Local” strategy that brought back the bank manager to its branches, Westpac has unveiled its new “Bank Now” branches that will radically alter the way customers will do their banking in the future.

The state-of-the-art formats are now being rolled out across Westpac Retail and Business Banking's network of 680 branches with the first outlets already operating in Queensland and Western Australia, two of the major growth areas for the bank.

Today's unveiling of the Bank Now branches comes just a month after the launch of Westpac's new brand campaign "Australia proudly supported by Westpac"1 which underscores the bank's 196 year commitment to the country.

As an initial step, Westpac is planning to refurbish a third of its existing branches over the next three years in the Bank Now format while new openings will automatically adopt that style. The remainder of the network will progressively be updated as existing property leases expire.

The program represents an investment of $240 million in its first stages and will be funded from the bank's ongoing capital investment in the network including branch refurbishment.

Jason Yetton, Group Executive of Westpac Retail and Business Banking, said the introduction of the new Bank Now branches was a direct response to the way customers were driving the technological changes now sweeping the banking industry.

“The advent of mobile banking, first through smart phones and now tablets, has completely altered the way our customers bank with us and as a result they want more advice from our staff about how to get the most out of their finances and how to plan for the future,” said Mr Yetton.

“Our Bank Now branches are designed exactly with those needs in mind with the lay-out and specific areas all tailored to make it easier for our customers and our staff to have more personal conversations about the things that really matter.”

With more transactional banking being done through mobile devices and online, Mr Yetton said there had been some speculation that bank branches were part of the past and no longer needed.

But that was contrary to everything that customers had been telling Westpac as they dealt with increasingly complex and sophisticated financial needs.

“Some commentators have predicted the death of the branch in the digital world but nothing could be further from the truth,” said Mr Yetton. “As our new branches show, not only are we confident about the future of branches we also know this is exactly the type of face-to-face service that our small business and personal customers are asking for.

“I have always said that banking is a people business and our customers have been telling us that they want local people who know them and have the knowledge and expertise to be able to advise them on the big and little things in life.
 
“At our first Bank Now branch at Sherwood in Brisbane for instance, we have a bank manager, a local business banker, a financial planner, a home finance manager, a premium relationship manager and a number of personal bankers. This means we can meet all the financial needs of local people at the branch.

“Branches will, however, be smaller and we will look to locate them in areas where there is growing need for them and where our customers are, particularly in the growing parts of the country. But they definitely have a big role to play in the changing ways that our customers are looking to bank with us.”

As part of the new approach to banking, the traditional screens and counters that separated customers from staff has been scrapped and will be replaced with an open plan lay-out which combines a mix of self-service banking options and tailored advice and support from specialist banking staff.

This service ranges from everyday banking needs to whole-of-life financial planning and individual wealth needs. The highlights of the new branches include:

  • 24 hour seven day a week self-service banking with 'smart' ATMs that accept deposits through cash, coins and cheques. As well as cash withdrawals, customers will also be able to exchange notes for coins in the new foyer area that will enable access at all hours outside of normal branch opening times; 
  • A service reception area where customers will be welcomed by a staff member who, with colleagues, will handle simple enquiries and transactions at side-by-side computer pods;
  • For more comprehensive transactions which previously would have been conducted through screens, customers will be able to stand next to personal bankers who will undertake their business on the Westpac's new computerised teller system named “Spider”;
  • At the centre of the new-look branch is “The Heart”, a lounge-style area where customers can check their account balances, transfer money between accounts and pay bills using Westpac's revolutionary iPad app for mobile banking on dedicated tablets provided. The Heart will also provide a relaxed waiting area for customers who wish to talk in private with one of the branch's financial advisers;
  • Customers will be able to browse a wide range of Westpac information on dedicated digital touch screens which will also enable the information to be emailed without having to print out. The new look branch is aiming to be as paperless as possible;
  • For those customers wanting more detail about their specific financial needs such as arranging a mortgage, a personal loan, creating and building wealth and planning for the future, there is a mix of semi-private areas and offices for those discussions;
  • The offices also provide video conferencing capabilities for meetings and conversations with Westpac's specialist teams of advisers, planners and financial experts based in other locations.

Editor's note: The first Bank Now branches are now operating at Sherwood in the south-west suburbs of Brisbane, Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, Queensland and Wanneroo in the northern suburbs of Perth. These will be followed by Elsternwick (late-December) and Traralgon (late-January) in Victoria and progressive openings of refurbished and new branches in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and NSW throughout 2013.

 

1 “Australia proudly supported by Westpac" campaign was launched nationally in print and digital on November 18 2012.