We have already seen glimpses of ‘future banks’ in recent years. However, a new Bank of Ireland in Ballycoolin gives us a more accurate picture of the future of community banking.

It’s not so long ago that high-street banks were hives of activity in the most central locations of the communities they operated in.

People of all ages and professions did their banking in, usually granite-clad, buildings with the help of the people who worked there: the cashiers, the loan managers, the financial managers and the bank manager.

Banking was a paper-based activity, very much ruled by the flow of notes, drafts and cheques. However, paper no longer rules.

Today, in Ireland, 78% of people do their banking online, and 60% do their banking via mobile apps.

For example, of the 20 million customer interactions Bank of Ireland has every month, half of these come via the mobile app.

“People still want access to their banks but for different reasons.”

Very few people have a daily or weekly need to visit a physical bank.

The high street and community bank is, like many of the relics of the pre-digital age, no longer an essential part of daily life.

This does not mean, however, that people don’t want their banks. They do. People still want access to their banks but for different reasons.

bank of ireland ballycoolin

So, what does the future of community banking look like?

“If you get the balance right between a great digital service and a physical presence and one-to-one interactions with customers I think you’re on to a good proposition. The challenge for us is to always make sure we keep the balance,” says Gavin Kelly, CEO, Retail Ireland, Bank of Ireland.

Kelly says Bank of Ireland will spend close to €10m upgrading the network this year. “We’re also going to spend €15m next year and €15m the following year on capital investment,” he says.

“There is a state of the art event centre with presentation screens, seating for 50 and a dedicated events team.”

Creating a community space

According to the manager of Bank of Ireland, Ballycoolin, Gary Holligan, the new branch has been designed as a central space in an otherwise industrial community.

“Ballycoolin is a bank in that you can still lodge and withdraw money and talk to a financial advisor about a mortgage or a business loan. But it’s also much more than that. The space is designed to be open to the community – it is a place that can be used for events, meetings, co-working and networking.”

Encouraging people to use the new space is very much part of Holligan’s brief.

“We have private meeting rooms where people can hold interviews, team and customer meetings, there is a Workbench where startups and businesses can avail of free desk space, free wi-fi and complimentary tea and coffee. The Workbench model has proven to be very successful for businesses and startups.

“We want to bring a focal point to this community, to be a hub for enterprise and entrepreneurial energy.”

“There is a state of the art event centre with presentation screens, seating for 50 and a dedicated events team to help plan and host a professional experience.”

bank of ireland ballycoolin

Bank of Ireland has already opened several Workbenches around the country in Limerick, Galway, Cork and Dublin as well as Kilkenny.

“We see Ballycoolin as a very vibrant, innovative and entrepreneurial community,” says Holligan. “What we want to do at Bank of Ireland is to bring a focal point to this community, to be a hub for enterprise and entrepreneurial energy. We want to be at the heart of this community, to serve it in a creative and relevant way and to enable it to thrive.”

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