With high excitement and expectation, grand opening ceremonies for the PeoplesBank Lancaster City Connections Center were held Friday, March 6, 2020.
The date was intentionally chosen to coincide with First Friday — a big event in downtown Lancaster. Stores and galleries stay open late, restaurants run specials and the city streets are filled with people looking to relax and have a good time.
After state and local representatives helped with the ribbon-cutting, the community was invited inside to view the branch. The feedback was great. People of all ages and demographics stopped in and were wowed by this new concept of a bank.
One week later, on March 13, Governor Wolf issued shut down and shelter in place orders due to the spread of Coronavirus. The Connections Center, open for only seven days, had to close its doors to the public.
The Next Evolution in Banking
Located in a storefront in downtown Lancaster City, steps away from the bustling Lancaster Central Market, the PeoplesBank Connections Center is not your conventional bank branch.
In early 2019, the PeoplesBank management team met to strategically discuss their mission of helping clients achieve their dreams and live confidently and what it means for the next generation of customers. The group agreed:
- Simple transactions like deposits or withdrawals were no longer conducted regularly at traditional branch offices.
- There is a significant population of younger customers who have never even “banked” at a bank — or stepped inside a branch office.
So how do you communicate with this population who are “app oriented” and prefer to communicate digitally? Through research and focus groups, they learned this generation of customers have:
- A perception of formality, anxiety and misunderstanding about bankers and banking.
- Financial needs for which strong, community banks have the resources and solutions to provide.
Conclusion: The need for banking services exists, but the perception of how banks operate and what bankers offer needed to be changed.
The discussions and research results were the genesis of the concept and design of PeoplesBank’s first Connections Center — a hands-on, interactive banking experience.
Using a retail storefront model, this smaller sized banking center is designed to promote comfortable interaction, conversation and relationship building. There are no desks.
The Center was intentionally created as a versatile multipurpose space to be used to hold financial literacy classes, host local artist displays, offer conference rooms and videoconferencing capabilities to local non-profits and so much more.
Booth seating, high-top tables and conversation-oriented spaces are all moveable and portable. Although the space is smaller in square footage than a traditional bank branch, it feels bigger and allows an opportunity for more activity.
Upon entrance, a customer is greeted by a member of the concierge team, many of whom were recruited from hospitality and engagement-based industries. Initial conversations are focused on the individual’s needs, dreams and goals.
First-time guests are led to a 91-inch touchscreen monitor where they can create their vision board. On the screen are 60 different images from which to choose. The individual slides 12 images over to their personal board to reflect hopes and dreams for the future. Homes, vacations, and financial security are just some of the types of images on the screen.
Next, the concierge will ask them to identify the top three most important images and ask them to describe what it means to them and their future.
This process allows the bank representative to go very deep, very fast — and connect the customer to the right financial associate to help them meet their goal.
Continuing the Conversation
“We received very positive feedback that first week regarding the atmosphere and vision board. People told us the Center feels more relaxed and comfortable than a traditional bank,” shares James Kinney, Client and Community Ambassador and Manager of the Connections Center.
Several local businesses had already committed to using the public use space for demonstrations or displays on the upcoming First Fridays.
Then Coronavirus struck and those in-person exchanges stopped abruptly. However, the connectivity concept and technology at the Connections Center allowed branch management to pivot quickly and continue their conversations with prospects and clients.
“COVID-19 accelerated all we wanted to do,” shares Craig Kauffman, President/CEO of PeoplesBank. “Our managers at the Connections Center were already on track with outreach to new clients. They continued business as usual.”
Without a drive-thru, the Lancaster City location did not have to immediately adapt their way of doing in-person business to accommodate safe practices as did other branches. Instead, they used innovative technology already in place at their branch to connect with their very new clients and prospects.
Kinney and one other manager were at the office every day through the pandemic, touching base with clients and prospects.
“We used Zoom to meet with clients. We were able to share our technology virtually. Without losing our momentum, we continued to secure new relationships and support our clients despite the unusual circumstances.”
A Resource for the Community
PeoplesBank, A Codorus Valley Company, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Codorus Valley Bancorp, Inc., the largest independent financial institution headquartered in York County. For 155 years, they have served the financial needs of residents and businesses in South Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland.
In 2016 they entered the Lancaster market with a Business Banking Center, a full-service Financial Center, and now also have a Connections Center and five Retirement Community banking offices in the county. In total, they have 24 branches.
“We want to be seen as financial mentors,” says Kristen Heisey, Director of Marketing & Client Experience. “Based on what a client shares with us, we ask appropriate questions so we can guide them to the right solution. We build confidence and trust to help clients achieve their dreams. That did not stop with the pandemic.”
Lancaster City is not yet back to business as usual. Foot traffic is light, and not all businesses have reopened. On June 15, under the Yellow Phase of Pennsylvania Coronavirus guidelines, PeoplesBank Connections Center once again welcomed people into their office.
“It feels good to be back,” shares Kinney. “It feels good to be with clients and other staff members. Most of us in banking did not get into this field because we like numbers. We are here because we like people. We like connecting and supporting clients to build a business or a life with financial confidence.”
Some of the new clients gained via phone or video call have stopped in to meet in person. Others have come by because of direct mail pieces that were sent with special offers and to satisfy their curiosity about this new banking concept.
Looking ahead in this period of uncertainty regarding the virus, the Connections Center is talking with local businesses and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce about a “virtual” First Friday.
“Our focus would be on education,” said Kinney. “Health and finance are at the top of everyone’s mind. In any way we can — whether managing safety protocols, mortgage refinances, debt consolidation — whatever the need — we plan on being here to help.”
Kauffman adds, “It was always our plan to serve our clients while also being a resource for the entire community. Coronavirus did not change that goal.”
The opening of the Connections Center was also PeoplesBank’s introduction of a brand refresh. Their new logo represents the core values and mission that have been the stronghold of their bank since their beginning.
- The center diamond signifies the client — always at the center.
- The symbol to the left represents PeoplesBank — always surrounding and supporting their customer.
- The arrow to the right embodies the vision of always moving forward toward the future.
“The new logo sums up our brand,” shares Heisey. “We are here to give every person a distinctive client experience.”
The ability of the Connections Center to continue to operate — and grow — under pandemic restrictions has proven the new concept works. PeoplesBank is still looking ahead with plans of implementing the Vision Board dreaming features of the Connections Center at all locations as soon as possible.
“We are ready to bring banking to the next level,” says Kauffman. “To change the conversation with our clients, to understand their dreams and desires, to keep those dreams front and center, and to make them become a reality.”
Diane M. Sweeney is a professional copywriter and content strategist. At her desk, overlooking Beaver Creek in Chester County, she enjoys writing articles and web content to inform, persuade and entertain. Her work can be found at www.dianemsweeney.com