Why a digital bank is turning branches into art galleries

Oct 25, 2017 | Back to News
PurePoint Financial’s 2,300-square-foot flagship New York City location at Park Avenue and 53rd Street looks more like a museum than a bank branch.

Once customers walk in, they are greeted with comfy chairs and free refreshments, and they can take in the 15 pieces of art on the walls from local dance photographer Rachel Neville. It was a concept launched in August, and the bank will take it to its other branches, starting with Chicago, early next year. It’s another example of the way physical branches are transforming beyond the traditional bank layout to more of a lounge where customers can talk to real people in a relaxed, fun environment.

For PurePoint, it adds an element of tangibility to the brand, and it’s a way to connect with the community. “The art scene is part of New York,” said Maha Madain, head of enterprise marketing at PurePoint. “What better way to showcase our commitment to the community than being part of the community?

PurePoint worked with marketing agency Catapult on the idea and decided on a local photographer that Madain sought out.

”New York isn’t just a place, but it’s a frame of mind or an attitude,” said James Riess, svp of client services at Catapult Marketing. “We thought, ‘What better way to capture that frame of mind than through exhibits that celebrate our passion for the art?'"

Finding a local artist was an important priority for the bank, Madain said. It hasn’t purchased the art but has an exclusivity agreement with the artist that ensures that no additional copies of the pieces displayed will be made.

“We’re purposely not dealing with artists who so are so renowned that it would costs hundreds of thousands of dollars [per piece],”  she said. “We want to give someone an opportunity to have their art on display.”

The gallery is generating a lot of interest, Madain said, though she wouldn’t comment on numbers. The concept of the brick-and-mortar bank location as a community space is gaining traction, with Umpqua Bank’s lounge-style spaces and Capital One Cafés being prominent examples. PurePoint said its choice of brick-and-mortar financial centers is the result of market research it carried out on target demographics.

“[Customers] want the convenience of dealing with an online bank and also want the great rates, but in many markets, they also want the ability to meet with somebody face to face,” said Madain. “That’s the concept behind our financial centers; they are strategically positioned in markets where a physical presence is very important to clients.”

While PurePoint wouldn’t say it’s aiming to reach customers who patronize the arts, the bank is showing off its arts-friendly credentials, both through the gallery branch concept and through its sponsorship of this year’s New York Philharmonic season. According to Neville, the pieces featured in the branches are designed to get people interested in dance: “I think we are in an era where we cannot ignore the power of good marketing, and I hope to help the dance world in my way, thrive in the game,” she said in an interview with Dance Informa.

PurePoint launched in February, and its parent company, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, is one of the world’s largest financial services companies. For now, PurePoint offers savings accounts and certificates of deposit. It said it’s aiming to reach “committed savers,” regardless of age, and the bank has locations across the country, including in Chicago, Texas and Florida.

To Paul Spriggs, Americas president at System1 Agency, the marketing approach is an interesting one, and its success will depend on its connection to the brand story. “When you’re investing in the brand, even if it’s losing money, as long as it’s driving the brand purpose and there’s a consumer benefit to it, that’s the most important thing.” Photos of PurePoint’s New York financial center courtesy of PurePoint Financial