The Cumberland has revealed plans to invest over £2 million creating a new-look, state-of-the-art branch by refurbishing and extending its English Street premises in Carlisle.
The building society set up a research hub in the city centre and spent months listening to customers’ views and testing various ideas before working with renowned retail store designers Uncrowd and Design Time to finalise its plans for the branch expansion.
The research found that although digital banking was increasingly popular for day-day transactions, many people still valued and often preferred the personal contact they had in branches where they could get help with important financial decisions.
The new design puts people and personal service at the centre of every interaction and will be very different from any other bank or building society branch in Carlisle. The open-plan and uniquely styled environment will do away with the traditional counter and other barriers between staff and customers and instead, there will be comfortable spaces to sit and discuss finances while enjoying a coffee. There will also be private areas for personal advice and learning spaces where people and businesses can get support on a range of subjects from specialist staff.
The branch will expand into the neighbouring shop premises on English Street which it used for its research hub in 2018. It will also use the two upper floors to provide a collaborative workspace for customers and local businesses, more than doubling the size of the current branch footprint.
Claire Deekes, The Cumberland’s Head of Retail Distribution, said: “This is a very exciting investment in our flagship Carlisle branch based around the information customers gave us about how they wanted to do their banking in the 21st century.
“It is not about automation or self-service, it’s about providing an exceptional customer experience. We will actually have more people working in the branch and the extra space will give us the flexibility to provide our services in the way our customers really want. We’re building a warm and welcoming environment so people can be much more comfortable when they want to discuss their finances with us.”
“Our research showed that while the number of transactions carried out in branches has declined – as it has across the industry – people still want to be able to talk to a real person, someone who can really get to know them and their financial needs. We’ve designed this new branch to allow people to do just that, in whichever way they feel most comfortable.
“This will be a major investment in the high street and a huge step forward in delivering Brighter Banking from Cumbria!,” she added.
The Cumberland opened a temporary branch in English Street in October 2018 to use as a testbed for new ideas which will now be implemented in the new future-proof branch which will herald the start of a wider investment in its network.
The English Street branch will close for the refurbishment from 4pm this Saturday and is expected to reopen in August as The Cumberland’s new, expanded city centre Hub with its modern facilities. City centre customers will still be able to use the Fisher Street branch where there will still be increased staffing during this period.
The Brampton branch is also being refurbished, closing for four weeks from noon on Saturday 22 February. It will reflect the same new thinking working many of the idea of the main hub into a smaller branch environment.
The Cumberland says that once it has embedded its new designs in English Street and Brampton and learned from customer feedback it will then review its investment plans across the entire branch network.