Saturday, May 7, 2011

The poor old high street bank

When internet banking fails and our normal virtual conception of money is abruptly not working sometimes we have to venture to the bank.

On a recent visit to my local bank I noticed that the Artex inspired rough plastered ceiling had been replaced. The ubiquitous refurbishment had occurred. I wasn’t expecting much to be honest and my preconceptions were not let down either. New carpet ,stick on plastic signs, corporate coloured institutional like seating, perspex over protective shields for the members of staff, super graphics of the local area, all very dour predictable banking interior.

Local banks are certainly not places to be inspired I think hospital waiting rooms have more excitement going for them. They are places more associated with a discount chemists these days rather than the lofty aspirational temples of old. On a normal high street the bank was the grandiose building, sending a sense of authority and permanence throughout the community. They were also interesting spaces too often giving the impression of stability and order.

Today’s banking is a very different beast divided into infinite financial variations but still integral to our everyday lives, so why have things been streamlined to the bare minimum. 
To some degree technology has had an impact on the local banks usual patrons. The rise of the internet and the shuffling around of funds has been handed over to us. The banks too through their many arms probably now see high street banking as a far less glamorous devision compared to their aspirational higher profile jobs.  

It is obvious that corporate identity to banks is very important but the image represented to the public today seems so  blatantly about profitability that it’s risking the adverse effect of actually looking like we the normal customer are being neglected. But where this neglect occurs on street level up in the headquarter office complexes where the major banks reside money it seems is of no object.  Lavish lobby’s leading to high concept workplaces are the order of the day far removed from the almost utilitarian spaces Joe public has to put up with. It leads to a division demographically that I think is something to be looked at. Are banks losing touch with the very reason why they exist? are banks too big to care anymore? don't we deserve better?

There are of course examples of high street banks showcasing new flagship branches and it is commendable that some banks usually smaller ones are trying harder to forge an identity that values the customers needs not only in a functional way but also aspirational and dare I say it 'interesting' too. But all too often we witness the sub standard world that is the high street bank a place of nondescript dreariness perhaps one day this will change but I will not be holding my breath.

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