NatWest pilots self-service banks

Natwest is to pilot a new self-service retail concept this spring as part of the ongoing development of its distribution process.

The outlets will have branded facias, created by an unnamed consultancy, and carry the existing NatWest logo. The interiors will be a variation on the bank’s existing four-strong self-service chain, originated by Design House (DW 10 November 1995).

“This concept is taking self-service banking a step further with no counter or operator but with a telephone line. It will be more relaxed and welcoming with softer furnishing,” says NatWest retail distribution senior manager John Cullen. He declines to comment on the design of the facias.

The new outlets are part of a wider look at NatWest’s distribution strategy as banks across the board explore the best distribution methods. This includes an updated automated teller machines pilot, designed by software company AIT, which will roll-out to all NatWest’s 3000 machines by May. “The new ATM is easier to use and multi-coloured, as opposed to green and black which was harsh on the eye. It has more facilities and is more reliable technically,” says Cullen.

Kleinwort Benson banking analyst Nick Lord says NatWest’s concentration on distribution is typical of the banking sector as a whole. The emergence of new distribution methods such as direct banking, mail-shots and Internet and television banking has made the process more complex.

Direct banking first came to the UK when Midland Bank set up First Direct in the late 1980s. All developments have created work for design consultancies.

Competition in the sector has increased as insurance companies and supermarkets have moved on to the high street banks’ traditional turf. BDG McColl created an in-store branch of Barclays Bank in a Morrisons supermarket (DW 21 February 1997). Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Safeway and Asda also have banking ventures. Each supermarket bank is linked to a high street bank and each relationship differs.

“Traditional high street retail banking is still the most widespread method and likely to remain so for quite some time. However, they can learn a thing or two about marketing from the supermarkets,” says Lord.

“Banks are experimenting with their retail concepts, working out how best to configure them. The traditional outlets are expensive to run, and the argument is, ‘do we need this?'” he adds.

Ammirati Puris Lintas is re-designing NatWest’s website.

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