Desjardins’ next-gen banking

The credit union makes going to the bank more like shopping with a new, retail-inspired branch design.

This story appears in the September 2015 issue of strategy.

Desjardins is taking an Apple Store-inspired approach to retail banking.

The credit union’s new store design at Marché Central shopping centre in Montreal was handled by Lg2′s design and branding shop Lg2boutique, and is built around “projects” like owning a home or saving for retirement. Each project is represented as a physical product on the shelf containing information on the services customers need to make them happen, from insurance to accounts to mortgages.

It’s also outfitted with tablets where visitors can sign in using Facebook or LinkedIn, which identifies them and provides a list of the most relevant products and services, as well as videos and simulators allowing them to input their info and goals, and figure out what’s best for them. They can also get recommendations for branches more specialized in their needs and book an appointment. After leaving, they can sign in to research further or make a purchase elsewhere.

The layout also means staff can help guide customers next to them instead of from behind a desk, answering questions they might have as they go through the bags or use the tablets.

“Our members, especially young ones and immigrants, were telling us the way banking was being done wasn’t meeting their needs,” says Martin Brunelle, managing VP for Greater Montreal, Desjardins. “They weren’t going, not because they didn’t have to, but because they didn’t enjoy it.”

The new store is divided into three main areas: wealth management, property acquisition and new Canadians. The plan is to retrofit several more stores in Montreal before the year’s end, and Brunelle expects it to extend to its entire retail network within a few years.

“Usually at a bank branch, you feel like you’re going to the customs office,” he says. “The whole idea is to make shopping for financial services as exciting as shopping for a new pair of shoes.”