Realising the importance of personal customer service, Westpac has unveiled its new ‘Bank Now’ branches as its next step of its ‘Local’ strategy.

Its bank branches are undergoing a transformation where the glass security screens will disappear and customers are able to have face-to-face conversations with staff in an open plan, relaxed lounge-style environment. It will also combine a mix of -service banking options and support from banking staff.

The new formats, which will be smaller, 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.

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.

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 smartphones 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,” he said.

“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.”

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.