Bank Branch Client Coworking Space

The Bank Branch Client Coworking Space transforms and amplifies the business development potential of bank branches. It engages clients in physical branches and an online forum to knit a rich community in stages. The combined physical/digital community attracts highly desirable clients and prospects by engaging them with relationship managements very efficiently. It repurposes space in optimal bank branches to serve as coworking space for desirable mobile knowledge workers. Here I outline its Executive Summary and Expanded Description before outlining the process and expected business outcomes.

These are meant to be descriptive; I can make this opportunity much more vivid in person.

Executive Summary


  • Engage mobile knowledge worker clients by providing them an “office away from the office” in select branches.
  • Assess interest, get design input, and promote pilot branches with public online forum. The scoping phase itself can attract new business.
  • Define and select optimal branches for coworking spaces, which are positioned between Starbucks and airport lounges.
  • Design spaces by focusing on mobile workers’ work modes (online, calls, meetings..).
  • Branches can hold special events to address critical issues to small business and personal banking clients; videotape and share online, attracting more prospects.
  • Option to restrict access to clients or include qualified prospects.
  • Create high-value offline/online interactions to work up hierarchy of social actions, toward conversion.


  • Coworking spaces encourage repeated, meaningful branch visits. Bankers collaborate with clients online and invite them to branch meetings when relevant.
  • Gives branches new relevance to clients engaged in their businesses/careers.
  • Sales process gets far more efficient, since initial discovery of client needs happens online.
  • Higher quality of trust and relationship due to relevant interaction; validated by progress on hierarchy of social actions (offline/online).
  • The online forum knits together physical coworking spaces and their extended community; also serves as an efficient channel for bank specialists to engage clients and prospects.
  • Once thought leader pioneers prove the concept, other bankers will want to join the initiative.
  • Coworking clients will inquire about the firm’s products and services when the right trust level is reached.
  • Product management gets real-time insights into client business issues, and they use it to design more services; various business units use outcomes-based insights to cross-sell more services.
bank branch client coworking spaceMore social business
in financial services

Expanded Description


The Bank Branch Client Coworking Space aims to boost the return on branches, which are costly and increasingly underutilized by the most profitable clients, who rarely visit branches because they bank online. This opportunity takes advantage of branches’ central locations to accommodate desirable mobile workers by giving them  reliable “mobile offices” in which they can work on their laptops, make phone calls or hold meetings. Three key business goals are: becoming part of clients’ infrastructure, introducing relevant thought leader bankers to most desirable clients to develop relationships and introduce relevant services and acquiring new clients (mobile workers).

Key Features of the Bank Branch Client Coworking Space

  • Defined, open space within the branch that welcomes clients to stop in and work, whether on their own computers or on a few dedicated desktop machines. Positioned between a Starbucks and an airport lounge. If desired, enable qualified prospects to register and become members of the online community, which gives them access to coworking spaces.
  • Within the coworking space, design small spaces appropriate for people to work on their laptops; when possible, have separate spaces with larger tables for discussions, meetings. When warranted, have more than one space to serve clients in various work modes.
  • Free power wifi, power outlets, desk space and decent coffee and tea. Printing privileges. Optionally have a few iPads available and offer videoconferencing.
  • Clients sign in with their ATM or credit cards, which aids in security and helps the bank understand usage trends. [prospects credentialed via online community identify]
  • Branch bankers offer seminars focused on most desired stakeholders, helping to develop reputation and educate clients. Expert bankers support the online forum from anywhere.
  • Private online Q&A forum in which clients can ask questions (B2C example or B2B example); depending on the question, the banker could come over to meet with the client face to face—when the client accesses the forum from the coworking space.
  • [Phase2 option to enable non-clients (i.e. prospects) to sign in after they have created a profile and authenticated with a card.]
  • Phase2 option is to introduce clients to each other, when it adds value.
  • Phase2 option: based on pilot results, introduce and sell value-added services in defined scenarios; since clients sign in, it would be convenient for them and the bank to bill for value-added services.
  • Phase2: After several branches have participated long enough, you will  have the data to try various models, and even design coworking into new branch concepts.

For more on the concept, see referenced case studies under “More Information,” below.


The purpose here is to outline the process of repurposing space in select branches to develop relationships with mobile workers, just to provide an idea of the concept; please post questions using comments, or email me for more detail.

Strategy and vision

  • This social business opportunity combines offline and online to enhance branches’ ROI and relevance to clients.
  • Audit the ecosystem of social venues that is relevant to branches that aim to serve mobile workers as well as your organization’s business, services and products. You need to understand who is online and what they are trying to accomplish when they are working mobile. The audit should include identifying specific conversations of stakeholders that have the deepest impact on your business strategy (assuming mobile workers). It should also identify workstreams, which describe what stakeholders are doing. Your audit can serve as a feasibility study.
  • Launch online forum first to assess interest in coworking and determine feasibility. Build and share several rich concept spaces online, to help forum members understand the concepts. This can drive business and brand value at low cost.
  • Candidate branches should be located in areas frequented by mobile workers who match high-priority clients and prospects (who need services that drive those branches’ business strategies).
  • Second, analyze your firm’s organization, branches, product portfolio and personalities. Which branches and product groups are feeling the most pain? Which branches have a few client-facing bankers/professionals/relationship managers with real innovation experience (who would be more motivated to support coworking branches)? What characteristics would make branches good candidates for a pilot?
  • Assuming you find relevant branches, online conversations and at least one area of the firm that is motivated and able to contribute, define your pilot(s). It is best to scope two to three pilots in order to reduce risk (one or more will succeed).
  • Your strategy is based on real proof that the clients and prospects you want to engage are mobile and motivated to work at pilot branches; they are online talking about relevant topics (frustrations trying to work at Starbucks, hotel lobbies..), and it assesses your firm’s readiness to engage. Your audit of the ecosystem will teach you a lot about what’s available and how your firm can distinguish itself. Use pilots to test and evolve the strategy.
  • Strategy should prioritize and sequence pilots and their design; pilots start small, but they should be designed to validate/evolve key aspects of the strategy before scaling the effort. Since this opportunity involves real estate and buildout costs, it requires more careful study than some of the others.
  • Another risk mitigation tactic is to start coworking-focused discussions online during the ecosystem audit to gauge interest and gather ideas.


  • Select branches and teams carefully; remember, you are starting as small as possible, so you don’t need more than a few people to contribute a few hours each.
  • Be mindful of the offline/online aspects. Assuming you include both in your pilots, you can leverage some expert knowledge bankers online-only, so they could support the online portion of branches located everywhere. Other bankers, assigned to branches, may have more general knowledge but could meet with people and give seminars at branches. If the branch has video conference capabilities, hold seminars featuring experts from afar.
  • Anticipate a staged process to build the Contributor team. Your audit will help you raise the interest of potential online Contributors, who write posts and interact with readers. Robust due diligence is the cornerstone of success here; once you discover stakeholders having high quality conversations about the outcomes they want to achieve with products like yours, some of your colleagues in various silos will get excited. That makes it real for them. A key selection criterion for branch banker Contributors is experience as mobile workers.
  • Seminars should be stakeholder-focused, not pitches for bank products. Consider topics such as using social business to grow small business—or to support recruiting. How to be more efficient when working mobile. If needed, bring in outside experts. Your workstream analysis will guide the subject of the seminars.
  • Be patient and persistent; in most financial services firms’ employees have endured many years of fearmongering about “social media,” and most are hesitant to get involved. While we de do not recommend underestimating the challenges that regulated industries face, we know that most can pursue online interactions. We recall that, only a few years ago, financial services executives used the same arguments to explain why “regulated firms can’t have websites.”
  • A key to success is to realize that you can start with a couple thought leader Contributors if necessary. We recommend having several, but all it takes is a few leaders to commit.
  • Expect that even the most enthusiastic bankers will need mentoring in how to network in the coworking spaces and act online to increase trust and business. The beautiful thing about social business is it’s transparent; once you model behavior and results, you serve as your own example for good and bad practices. Make sure to capture the branch onsite good/bad practices.
  • Marketing/social business supports the thought leader(s) by conducting outreach to relevant platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube. We recommend staging the outreach effort carefully to expand it in a controlled way, based on results. The audit should rank social venues based on most relevant stakeholder and workstream activity, so you can engage the highest ranked first. They will probably include specific groups, forums and blogs (i.e., blogs and forums on mobile work, coworking, treasury, consumer finance, homeowners insurance, investments, retirement).
  • Create tools like pilot charters that explicitly define goals, processes, resources and roles, but don’t boil the ocean. Ours are typically four pages long. Also create templates for each role, so they know exactly what to do. Creating templates for each role (for example, maybe one role specializes in contributing links, while another one sparks and manages conversations) takes the biggest risks out of the pilot. People need guidance, so give it to them, but don’t be formulaic; social business gets the best results when people are free to be themselves. Create templates before you approach Contributors, who are much more likely to get involved when they see in black/white what the Contributor commitment is.
  • Phase2 involves expanding the Contributor pool and outreach to drive traffic. Experimenting with optimizing offline/online interactions to drive goals. Several Phase2 ideas shown above.

Projected Outcomes

Outcomes happen over time, and these are given roughly in order. Please note that this is a generalized suggestive list.

  • The online community enables the bank to utilize its subject matter experts far more efficiently; their online interactions are extremely valuable in attracting new business because clients are setting the context for discussions; prospects usually give more credibility to conversations in which clients or other prospects of driving the discussion.
  • The branch coworking spaces and the online forum are interdependent. Some clients might use online only; others offline only; most will probably use both. You will be able to track all activity and learn patterns very quickly. It will be easy to track whether highly desirable clients are using the space, whether they find it valuable. Related is whether the online outreach is driving desired traffic to the branches.
  • The branch coworking spaces attract clients and prospects to the branch repeatedly and meaningfully. The bank is giving them a “productive shelter.” This is a powerful brand message.
  • The bank learns rapidly what is top of mind for clients, business-wise. This enables them to improve their relevance significantly.
  • Metrics should be grounded in measuring the depth of trust and relationship. CSRA constructs a hierarchy of social actions to measure increasing commitment that is reflected by coworkers’ and readers’ social actions (liking, commenting, referring friends, talking about the blog in other platforms, inquiring about your products and services). Offline and online conversion happens after a certain trust level is reached, based on interactions, so the pilots use the hierarchy to measure when conversions happen.
  • Outcomes will depend on the culture and habits of the stakeholders you want to engage; however, wherever you start, your interactions should start “climbing” the hierarchy over time when you are interacting appropriately, offline and online, because trust and commitment are increasing.
  • The stakeholders determine how much trust must be build prior to conversion. When you show stakeholders through your consistent responsiveness that you care about them, and you offer useful assistance and information, they will prefer you and want to buy from you because you inspire them.
  • Contributors are also “stakeholders” of this initiative; its leaders must strive to make participating rewarding for them to build the Contributor bench strength and diversity. When you design Contributor roles realistically, others will start asking to get involved. This is a key milestone to successful initiatives.
  • The online part of the pilot offers far more leverage than the physical part; because both attract mobile workers, you can create a mix so that the activity happening in the coworking spaces is also shared online, harnessing the network effect and compounding benefits. Selecting and nurturing the right topics, based on mobile worker desired outcomes, will be a major determinant of success.
  • “Product management” can tap into pilots’ results for insights into creating new products and services that can help clients achieve outcomes more easily and profitably.

More Information

This opportunity is ready now; major banks and insurance firms are already doing it. Review these case studies, which are part of our diligence of the bank branch client coworking space:

  • Bank Branch Disruption Enables Unusual Opportunity summarizes some of CSRA’s due diligence into this concept.
  • Virgin Money Lounges exhibit the concept of the physical locations well, but their offer doesn’t currently include a digital social network.
  • State Farm is piloting a “Community Center” in Chicago, Next Door, that resembles the bank branch client coworking space in some ways, although it serves very different stakeholder types.
  • Hudson Business Lounges responds to the value proposition; its website and pictures paint a picture of executive coworking, although, like ING’s cafes, it is far more involved that what we are suggesting here (repurposing part of select branches).
  • ING Direct’s Cafes offer very helpful ideas, but this opportunity is not nearly so extensive. It takes into account bank business strategy, branch demographics and branch physical characteristics. It repurposes part of branches’ space to prove the concept; it could borrow some of ING’s concepts, which are plain from its website and other links.
  • Here are numerous current examples of businesses offering coworking spaces in order to engage with Generation Y/Millennials. Read how hotels, restaurants, retailers, airports and cafés are aggressively accommodating mobile workers who regard impromptu offices as “standard” parts of their mobile workflows.
  • Amex Open Forum is well known for encouraging client-to-client interactions online; the bank branch client coworking space offers a physical manifestation of it, in Stage2. Instructive are Amex’s technique of building a high-value destination for defined stakeholders (small businesses) as well as its use of experts to add value online.
  • Find even more ideas and case studies here.

CSRA social business opportunities are the highest impact opportunities that we see in the market, so we are actively pursuing work in these areas. They enable leaders to transform their business processes ahead of the market, putting competitors at serious disadvantage.

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