Beautiful banks of the future: Say hello to luxury lounges and touch-screen tellers

Story highlights

  • High-tech banks look to boutique retail stores for inspiration
  • Focusing on design and consumer interaction, banks hope to be community hubs
  • Banks are incorporating features such as luxurious lounges and touch-screen walls
  • Face-to-face interaction will still be key
Future Finance showcases future trends related to the global financial system.

(CNN)How would you describe your local bank? Is it small, gray and drab? Are the opening hours short and inconvenient? Does it almost always seem to be low on staff?

The banks of the future are looking to inject new life into their outlets -- transforming formally dull environments into efficient, modern, tech-savvy destinations.
Long lines and dated designs are being replaced with luxurious lounge areas, tailored service offerings and even robots. Banks, it seems, are about to become a whole lot cooler.
    Groundbreaking design
    "The bank branch of the future must be designed around customer engagement," says Martin Shires, branch transformation manager at NCR, a consumer transaction technology company. "Banks need to make customers feel welcome from the moment they walk in the doors."
    As internet banking has taken hold, bank outlets are figuring new ways to pull customers through their doors. The demand for extra features, friendlier spaces and ultra-quick service means that branches are feeling the pressure to up their offerings.
    Qatar's Barwa Bank shows the shape of things to come with its concept branch created by Italian designers Crea International, which has luxury and efficiency at its heart.
    Decked with the latest touch-screen technology, lounge-like areas, leather seats and sleek interfaces, the design resembles a high-end hotel lobby or an ultra-cool members club. Luminescent walls are inlaid with arabesque motifs and bank staff sit next to clients at touch-screen tables.
    Forward-thinking design and high-quality service are finally taking center stage.
    "Bank branch design of the past focused on security and preventing robberies," says Shires. "Now and in the future, branches need to ... fit into the rhythm of consumers' daily lives."
    Retail destination
    But retail banks do not exist in isolation and have to jostle with other stores for customers' attention. Whilst competing with the rise of digital applications and online services, banks also need to keep track of the developments occurring in brick-and-mortar retailers.
    "Banks are not just competing with other banks anymore," says Shires, "they are competing against the experiences that consumers have when they walk into an Apple Store or when they buy a latte at the hip coffee shop that accepts mobile payments."
    Umpqua Bank, based in Oregon, has achieved success with its flagship branch in San Francisco, named international Store of the Year by the Retail Design Institute.
    Offering extras such as an invitation-only Business Lounge and a Demo Bar where businesses that use the bank can demonstrate their products to visitors, the Retail Design Institute praised the way it incorporated "a number of memorable signature elements to maintain a personal connection" -- including a retro-designed handset used to call the bank's CEO, and a bicycle for customers to use locally.
    Convenience is key
    That personal connection will remain crucial to the banking experience. Although banks are embracing digital developments, technology doesn't yet look to displace face-to-face interaction: instead, it looks to enhance it.
    As ATMs and in-store systems increase their offerings, employees will be able to help customers in a more tailored and efficient way.
    "Consumers will continue to need banking products and services," says Shires. "Technology is enabling banks to transform their branches to provide greater access and convenience to their customers."