By Derek Nicholson
If you share any similarities with myself in regards to the handling of personal finances, then you’re probably aware of the occasionally long – and sometimes cumbersome – experience that is in-person branch banking.
Oaken Financial has recently proposed to flip that notion on its head by introducing a branch format that makes banking a comfortable and accessible experience. My interest was definitely piqued, and as I was granted a sneak peek at the newest Toronto Oaken store (which opened to the public on Monday, May 11), I found the space to be tailored for a unique, more personalized banking experience.
A New Take on the Branch
Situated in Toronto’s PATH network (right beneath the 145 King St. W entrance), the location combines convenience with an overall inviting atmosphere, something that does not initially come to mind in traditional banking. The design and décor reflect Oaken’s forest brand theme, offering something fresh and unique to a banking environment. It’s a play on “planting” your wealth, as Oaken’s business focuses primarily on high-interest deposits and GICs.
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Upon walking through the entrance, you are met by a combination reception desk and iPad bar, designed to provide a quick way to sign up for updates and learn more about the services offered. You’re also offered the choice of a hot or cold beverage from a coffee bar (armed with a pretty swanky espresso machine!) by a representative who could then sit down with you and walk you through all of your banking needs.
The store then expands to offer plenty of seating space, with rooms along the side walls that are easily convertible for privacy when needed. The intimate space provides the type of atmosphere you would expect to find at a coffee shop. With lots of room to sit and talk finances with Oaken representatives, it seems like it would create a perfect balance of intimacy and collaboration with customers, with a focus on their specific needs.
While there isn’t a teller in sight, the space will be populated with resident financial advisors, said Benjy Katchen, vice president of Deposits at Oaken. Someone will always be easily accessible to those looking for a little help with their savings strategy.
Another neat feature to note is that once the store closes each day, the space is available for renting and events due to its 100-person capacity. An interesting way to multipurpose a branch!
The Oaken store functions in similar way to that of a lounge or coffee shop. Tangerine Bank was the pioneer of this model in Canada, cleverly referring to their branches as Tangerine Cafés. The goal is to provide the clients with the information needed to bank for themselves, all without having to go through the traditional bank branch process. This is included as one of the objectives of the new Oaken store, alongside creating an accessible experience that encourages walk-ins and passerby with their services.
It is important to note that the store does not operate like a conventional bank does, mainly due to Oaken’s online and telephone based banking model. With no tellers, ATM’s, or safety deposit boxes in sight, the focus is on educating and inspiring both new and old customers alike.
Do you think that other banks should encourage a teller-less, more collaborative banking experience? Let us know below!
Derek is in his fourth year of the Bachelor of Public Relations program at Humber College, working as an intern with the marketing team at RateSupermarket.ca over the summer. As his first foray into the world of personal finance, he hopes to expand and further develop his understanding while offering insight from a student’s perspective.