Occasio Retail Design

Bob Cooper’s post about Washington Mutual introduced me to the now-defunct Occasio banking concept:

Gone are the tellers of the traditional banks and their windows. In their place are khaki-clad “concierges” who direct people to where they need to go according to what the customers need. They may be directed to one of the “teller towers,” circular help desks where they can conduct their own business or talk to an employee.

This immediately reminded me of Paco Underhill’s thoughts on hotel design in Why We Buy. I was surprised to read that Washington Mutual applied for a patent for the configuration. It’s good PR, but as this Seattle Times article makes clear, it would have been almost impossible to defend.

In any event, Cooper points out that JPMorgan Chase, the new owner of Washington Mutual is discontinuing the Occasio design. He insinuates that this is a referendum on the appropriateness of the design; that it was somehow a failure.

I don’t see any evidence of that. They might not call what they did “service design” but from what I can tell the design had been well-received. It’s more likely that the concept simply didn’t fit with Chase’s more traditional brand.

For more on this topic, The Harvard Business Review ran an article about six years ago on banking retail design. Check out R&D Comes to Services for an overview.

Update: Adaptive Path has some additional thoughts on Chase’s move to replace the Occasio concept.

[via Frontier]

  1. Ben Kraal

    BankWest, here in Australia, have a branch in the CBD that has a “non-bank” layout. I haven’t been to their other branches to check if they are the same or “normal”.

    When I went in they even offered me a coffee.

  2. Jeff

    Umpqua in Portland is another good example of a non-bank approach. It has a bit of an “internet cafe” feel and offers a well-designed music kiosk promoting local bands. Of course, around the corner of the lobby are traditional rows of teller windows so they weren’t fundamentally re-inventing the act of retail banking.

  3. I have never experienced Occasio, but here is a quote from the Wall Street Journal:

    WaMu began introducing Occasio branches in 2000 as part of its expansion into new markets like Chicago. The push coincided with a wave of new branches that were being built around the U.S. as banks realized that customers still liked to go to brick-and-mortar facilities even as they did many transactions online.

    The first thing many WaMu customers see when they walk in the door is a “concierge desk” where an employee directs them to tellers standing in the middle of the branch. Occasio tellers don’t handle cash. Customers who want to withdraw money take a slip of paper from a teller to a cash dispenser, entering a numerical code.

    The unusual format still confuses some customers. On a recent visit to a branch in Santa Ana, Calif., one teller repeatedly stepped away from her station and waved vigorously in order to get the attention of a customer who was standing in line but couldn’t see her.

    “I got used to it, but at first it felt like ‘The Jetsons,’ ” said one customer who was withdrawing money recently at a WaMu branch in Dallas. The woman was referring to the futuristic cartoon television series from the 1960s.

    In doing some research, I learned that this “two-step” process of going from a teller to the cash dispensing machine came about after a WaMu customer was robbed inside one of the Occasio banks. Because of the open design, it was very easy for anyone to see how much cash a particular customer was getting from the teller. Some guy in line just couldn’t help himself and robbed the customer before he walked out the door. Thus, the cash-dispensing machines were installed.

  4. Jeff

    Wow, I hope that was only an “attempted” robbery. If he actually got away with it, the security inside that branch clearly left something to be desired. No matter what the layout, you shouldn’t be able to accost people inside a bank and then just walk away.

    Bank of America offers something similar to the Occasio concept. The branch near my home has a little kiosk in the center of the lobby near the teller windows. The attendant frequently comes over to people waiting in line and asks if they have a transaction that doesn’t involve cash (like Occasio, the kiosk doesn’t have a cash drawer).

    It’s useful for depositing a check or inquiring about a balance.

  5. Sorry for the late comment – I’ve just come across your post now…

    It seems that what Occasio did here is that they tried to solve the problem of the incidental user – the person who gets to the bank and would much rather see personal data than the back of a monitor.

    It’s a shame that Chase didn’t seem to care enough to explore whether Occasio’s design improved customer satisfaction, especially after so much effort was invested in coming up with this layout.

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