"In Banking today, as in Advertising, Image is everything.
What image does the bank of the Twenty First Century portray to the onlooking society?"
The Nigerian economy today, both planning and market systems, is going through downturn, recessive times.
Yet, resilient as ever, the average Nigerian pushes on trying to eke out a living. Whether caught up in 'surviving the season' or simply maintaining already existing, established grounds, the Bank remains integral at the heart of the economy.
A reassessment of the relationship between the customer and the bank would reveal an urgent need for the bank to come up with innovative ideas to enable customers get the optimum value for money, both in terms of profit ( credit or trust ) and charitable service.
A bank that can reinforce customers' confidence in its strength and stability in spite of fluctuating times is 'The Bank’ that will most positively impact the society with its service.
Banking in earlier times has been seen as a kind of mythical world with a set of formal relationships defined by strict codes of decorum and tradition. 20th Century Huge Banking halls, somewhat set to inspire awe in customers and separate them from the lofty and unattainable heights of financial stature.
This image has gradually been reinvented in order to reinforce the relationship between the customer and his bankers as being the cornerstone of any progressive thinking bank.
The common experience in most banks portrayed them merely as 'Money shops' money keepers, lenders and changers. The growth and dominance of Information Technology, Internet and Mobile Banking, as evidenced in the 21st Century bank, nonetheless, the service nature of banks must, if anything, be extra emphasized.
Architecture and Outlook
The old traditional image of the bank as a 'Bastion', an impenetrable mass of solidity and stability within changing times, is now challenged by an International style which incorporates Openness, Fluidity of spaces, Eclectic massing, Tectonic language and a humane approach which invites the passing public rather than forbids them by its outlook.
Actual security, not merely visual security, is inherent in the design of the bank.
Alarm systems, video surveillance etc are technology options which while not affecting the architecture materially, offers the opportunity to open up the building premises to would-be users.
The outlook of the bank building ought to suggest an impenetrability that is more psychological than physical.
Today's Bank is now more a promoter of Technology than an accomodator of crowds, as was the case with the early European bourse or exchanges of Amsterdam, Milan and Scotland. Modern Hi-tech proponents like Norman Foster and Richard Rogers boldly veered away from traditional, conservativeness to a new ‘Bank-itecture' highlighted by The Hong Kong Shanghai Bank and Lloyds Bank. To follow in this trend, were I.M Pei's Bank of China and Frank Gehry's DZ Bank, Berlin. These trendsetters broke the mould of conservativeness and set bankitecture on a new course.
The place of Branding in Banking is brought all the more to the fore by Digital marketing and imagery which makes the bank building of today a Billboard of sorts, a canvas for displaying services and products which are ever more tied to social media and mobile technology. The Bank HQ of today seeks to place the 'Bank' in the pockets, literally, of millenials and older generations alike. Almost turning the bank branch buildings into networking centres among other things.
The expected outlook today and emphasis of the brand architect is on ambience, creating a hospitable, even artistic interior that is welcoming and encouraging of customer networking, business meetings and seamless communication of ideas and propositions.