By Aimee Chanthadavong

As part of an overhaul of the CUA image, Australia’s largest customer owned financial institution has opened its concept ‘branch of the future’ in Carindale, Queensland.

Together with the assistance of international architecture firm ThomsonAdsett and Melbourne-based design studio Crowd Productions, CUA has come up with customer-centred design where customers are encourage to relax, learn, play and explore during their visit at the Carindale Branch.

The new branch features ‘The Bench’, a space designed for casual discussions; ‘The Booth’, a self-service zone; ‘The Cove’, ‘The Curve’ and ‘The Corner’ for private meeting zones; ‘The Café’, a lounge area with an espresso machine; and ‘The Herb Wall’ for customers to enjoy fresh and real herbs that can be taken home.

Speaking to RetailBiz, Darrin Northey, CUA’s group general manager of distribution, said the main aim was to push boundaries of how a typical financial institution would look – sterile and static.

“The key plan in the banking industry and in retail is to constantly listen to customers and to look at our retail outlets in light of what they’re telling us. We need to continue to adapt to stay relevant.”

Instead, the new look is all about being a fresh, contemporary and interactive branch that has homely and organic feel.

“What customers were saying was how an experience in any branch in the retail banking industry is pretty boring. So what we really wanted to do was create an environment that would not only reflect a contemporary look but also what CUA is really about the grassroots of who we are.”

“Therefore it’s critical that customers are able to feel our point of difference and that human service. The way you bring that across in a retail outlet is through a fun, sensory and functional way that is warm, humanistic, more earthy and organic.”

The design was 18 months in the making. CUA and its design partners tested the new look using a complete cardboard model box-branch to test how the ideas would all come together before it was built.

“We very deliberately throughout the process got customer feedback to ensure where were creating something that would reflect what customers wanted. In real terms when you deal with customers it’s more than just being a financial institution that gives out loans but you’re helping people buy a home,” Northey said.

“So we also wanted to make sure that was reflected in our design to be very clear to our customers that they matter to us.”

To complement the new design, CUA’s Carindale staff have also received new uniforms designed by Brisbane-based fashion designer Daniel Lightfoot of Daniel Lightfoot Studios.

“The new branch’s different textures, finishes and warm tones inspired my concepts, using new-age fabrics to create a uniform that is fresh, smart and professional but fun and unconventional.”

As for whether this scheme will be rolled-out at other CUA branches, Northey said they are looking to several potential locations. But warns they do not want to end up rolling the program out too quickly to soon where the design will end up feeling static.

“You need to keep changing and we’ll use the Carindale site to learn what our customers really need and we’ll build those capabilities to meet their needs.”