The Customer Effect

Yoga classes and snacks: Umpqua Bank wants to make banking less of a chore

  • Umpqua Bank is driving traffic back to the branch through modern co-working spaces where customers can relax and have fun.
  • The motive behind Umpqua's move is to create an experience that fosters sales of higher-value products.
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Yoga classes and snacks: Umpqua Bank wants to make banking less of a chore

Portland-based Umpqua Bank is embracing its decidedly West Coast roots, with branches that offer yoga classes, Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, coffee and snacks. The approach is part of the bank’s strategy to attract more customers by shaking up what it means to head to a bank.

“Finances are intimidating for people, and banks have followed that model by creating an intimidating and chore-like experience,” said Eve Callahan, evp of corporate communications at the company. “Why can’t we create a banking experience that’s approachable, engaging, and fun?”

In an age where banks are evolving their bricks-and-mortar branches by creating stripped-down, employee-less branches for digitally savvy younger customers, Umpqua Bank is taking another turn by reframing the branch as a community center where people can hang out and use the co-working spaces and meeting rooms.

“We thought ‘let’s operate the stores like community hubs — let’s augment the neighborhood around us’,” she said.

Umpqua Bank branches, which number over 300 in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and California, resemble open-concept co-working spaces more typical of startup culture. The design structures of the branches are meant to stimulate interaction. For example, when the bank’s South Lake Union branch opened three years ago, the outside of the building hosted an interactive “conversation wall” where passersby would text their thoughts, some of which would appear as installation art. Inside, the branch hosts meeting rooms and event space accessible to the public. The customer service area is an open space where staff members interact with customers.

Yoga class at umpqua
Would you take a yoga class at your bank?

The versatility of the space also extends to the organizational structure. Instead of tellers, the bank has a smaller number of “universal associates” — employees who can help customers with a range of inquiries, without having triage requests that has often been the norm in larger banks. And if there’s any matter they can’t address, customers can use a phone that takes them right to the CEO (Callahan noted that if he is not in the office, his assistant will take messages.) The bank also worked with Ritz-Carlton hotels on a consulting basis to train its staff in hospitality.

“The whole idea of a flat organization comes from Silicon Valley, where startups have people doing a lot of different things and are very much connected to management,” said Stephen Greer, an analyst at Celent. “If you have employees that are more skilled, they can be more entrepreneurial.”

Homepage image courtesy of Umpqua Bank

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