NAB is days away from unveiling a customer-focused “Smart Store” within its new Docklands office block that combines traditional, face-to-face branch banking with high-tech elements of the Apple Store.
When the Smart Store launches on Monday, there will be no walls or doors separating it from the open-plan ground floor of NAB’s 700 Bourke Street.
The building has been in the works with developer Cbus Property for an undisclosed cost since 2010. It will be open to the public from 7am to 7pm, although the Smart Store will only be staffed from 8am to 6pm.
NAB head of network planning and design Peter Holmes said the store leaned heavily on self-service technology that was built over the past 12 months by a team of in house staff with assistance from Apple and Samsung.
Apple technology and concepts also featured heavily in the Commonwealth Bank’s Brisbane flagship branch, which launched in 2011.
But while CBA’s branch is a large, heavily staffed hub, designed to host business, private banking and consumer events, and show off its various innovations, NAB’s inaugural Smart Store aims to boost efficiency by pushing self-service channels.
The store is designed to be 25% smaller than comparable branches, although there’s nothing stopping customers from spilling out into the open-plan atrium.
Here’s what it looks like:
NAB's 700 Bourke Street Smart Store is the first of three of its kind scheduled to launch by early 2014.
The two others will be located in Melbourne and Sydney. If successful, Holmes said they could be the first of 'quite a number in the next 5 years'.
The Bourke Street Smart Store is also one of three branch formats that NAB has introduced in the past 12 months, including a Hub Store that focuses on NAB business and agribusiness customers, and a Business Centre in Geelong that aims to be an office away from the office for customers.
NAB branches typically see 200-300 customers a day and handle 5,000-6,000 transactions a month, although Holmes says the latter figure has dropped 9% in the past year.
The store isn't always staffed; NAB wants to encourage customers to use self-service channels like mobile banking, online banking and ATMs when possible.
This 40-inch, touchscreen Samsung display sits at the front and centre of the store and runs a custom-built marketing system called Out Of The Box that lets customers browse product information and email marketing material to themselves.
The Smart Store is equipped with a free, public wifi network. NAB now offers free wifi in 150 stores across Australia, making it the 'third largest provider now, behind McDonalds and Hungry Jacks', according to digital retailing manager Helena Athans.
The Docklands precinct is home to many cafes, restaurants and other small businesses - a market that is a clear focus for NAB's Smart Store.
These machines are designed to automatically produce change and handle business deposits. NAB staff will be on hand to assist customers with the technology, although Holmes admits that the smaller store will also come with a headcount 'reduction over time'.
These 'Smart Deposit ATMs' by manufacturer NCR allow customers to deposit up to 50 cheques or cash notes at a time into an NAB bank account, by inserting their bank card or manually typing in their BSB and account number.
When the store launches on Monday, the 19-inch screens will be protected by a polarised privacy filter so customers' details aren't visible to others standing nearby.
The Smart Deposit ATMs automatically read cheques - even handwritten ones - to determine how much money you are depositing and print out a receipt.
Customers are asked to review the details scanned. If a cheque is illegible, the ATMs display an image of it on the screen and customers are asked to type in the amount manually.
Cheques take the usual 3-5 days to clear; cash deposits hit customer accounts by 6pm.
Customers use a mounted iPad and custom 'Come Help Me' software to call for a banker, or notify a banker that they've arrived for an appointment.
All Smart Store staff carry iPads while they are working in store. Come Help Me sends a notification alert to the relevant banker's iPad when he or she is needed.
Once you've called for a banker via the Come Help Me tablet, their photo appears on the screen so you know who to look out for.
NAB describes this as a modern-day version of a warm handover.
Here's where Smart Store staff are based when they aren't required for appointments, or mingling with customers. The glass-walled section is clearly visible from the entire store.
Unlike in traditional branches, no cash is kept in teller drawers, because the automated systems means that cash goes straight into the secure machines.
That also means that the Smart Store simply can't handle some traditional transactions like buying foreign currency or withdrawing more than $1000 over the counter.
The Smart Store features a single, glass-walled meeting room in case customers need to speak with a banker privately.
There are also two cafe-style tables in the store for appointments.
Marketing cards line the back wall of the Smart Store. Like the Out Of The Box touchscreen system at the front of the store, cards on the rear wall advertise various NAB products, but they're far from your usual printed brochure.
Each card features a QR Code and NFC tile that, when scanned, redirects customers' smartphones to the relevant marketing material on a mobile webpage.
Customers can request printed brochures but Athans says the store aims to be as 'paperless' as possible.
Beside the wall of cards is a mobile banking bar, where customers can register, activate and request assistance with NAB's mobile banking apps.
The mobile banking bar features what Holmes said were the three most popular devices in Australia - an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One - so customers may learn on the smartphone platform of their choice.
A single MacBook Air is available for customers to use for internet banking.
Athans said NAB had installed iPads and MacBook Airs in all its branches, as customers became more reliant on the technology.
NAB's Smart Store is located in the ground floor atrium of the bank's new building, 700 Bourke Street in Docklands, Melbourne, which is a stone's throw away from the Southern Cross train station.
The entire ground floor atrium is open to the public and is visible from staff levels higher up in the building.
The Smart Store is flanked by two cafes and a public auditorium that NAB makes available for events like 'Footify' for the AFL Grand Final this weekend.
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