OAB – REMODELLING THE BANK BRANCH EXPERIENCE
Is it possible to express the essence of an entire country, in the branches of its National bank? To use these branches to re-connect with and re-engage with key customer groups, as the impact of digital banking takes hold? At I-AM, we thought so, and for our close friends at Oman Arab Bank, have delivered new branches that do all of this and more.
As one of Oman’s leading banks, Oman Arab Bank realized the strategic need to completely remodel their branch customer experience and create a template for roll out across their network. I-AM were commissioned to deliver a complete branch transformation strategy and resulting bank concept design, working highly collaboratively with the bank’s internal team.
The foundation for the success of the project was the immediate chemistry and connection between our team, and that of Oman Arab Bank – from CEO to every stakeholder in the initiative, fostered through the initial local orientation and creative workshop process. This we orchestrated across our regional base in Dubai, I-AM Middle East, as well as in Muscat, through Customer Journey competitor benchmarking, retail experience inspiration, and collaborative storyboarding of the key principles for the new target customer experience.
Never have we had more fun working through this process than with the OAB team.
This continued throughout the project, with the I-AM team re-visiting Muscat for presentations of the creative direction – with built-in route options to maintain collaboration, followed by full CGI visualization and presentations to the bank’s board of directors.
The first two concept sites – one ‘Street’ format, one ‘Mall’ format, focus on serving the retail customers as well as incorporating a premium Priority Banking Lounge to attract and serve the Elite customers. The branches were launched to great fanfare, with Government representatives present to declare them open.
To the branch visitor familiar with Oman, it’s immediately apparent that the architectural concept is inspired by the country’s land and cityscape, with the layered concept surrounding the distinctive cubic shapes of the traditional Omani built environment (translated to the central seating, planting and low dividers) within slices of transparent blue – the ever-changing skyline – and set against a backdrop of the mountains in the form of mural-scale photography. This was essential to ensure, as a bank for the Omani people in a market with new international entrants such as HSBC, that customers perceived, and inhabited, the connection between OAB and its territory.
The all-too-common ‘barrier’ of the branch fronts are opened up, gable-end digital media replacing the ubiquitous poster-panels, allowing a clearer view of the warm & modern interior, giving an altogether more welcoming arrival experience. The OAB Brand blue is translated into the ‘slices’ that reflect the sky and divide the space, encouraging a sense of movement deeper into the branch.
A key focus was to create a better ‘welcome’ for customers at the transition point between exterior & interior, as well as to facilitate easier introduction by the branch hosts of customers to automated transaction facilities – key to transforming the cost model of the branch network into the future. The welcome point houses a touch-screen check-in to an intelligent customer flow management system, allowing queues to become ‘invisible’ (customers instead can wait in a comfortable central ‘landscape’ of seating, while browsing product & service info or simply taking advantage of the wifi provided).
Further into the branch experience, the palette moves from bright & modern into richer, warmer tones and privacy gradually increases across a range of interaction spaces, reflecting the depth and intimacy of the transactions. Problems of storage are rationalized, and new digital technologies embraced to reduce barriers between customers and OAB team members, creating stronger personal connections – in respect to Omani culture – leading to more commercially valuable relationships.
Digital onboarding is naturally enhanced through the new design, the sharing of screens between staff and customers being transformed through simple devices such as articulated monitors.
For those guests that arrive at the Elite member’s entrance, an exclusive area lies beyond, reserved for OAB premium customers. The experience design principles hold true here, while the feel of the space is enriched and upgraded, incorporating the work of a famous Omani contemporary artist and taking on a general feel of a top class hotel or spa.
The new OAB branch transformation combines expression of local landscapes and culture, the empowerment of customers and world-leading contemporary design and has already seen increased customer engagement due to a more personal and interactive branch experience.
Through the process, I-AM worked with OAB to ensure the concept was applicable, modular and scalable across a range of branch formats which will now be across their network throughout 2017.