[Weekender] Bank branches reinvented

By Lee Sun-young
  • Published : Sept 20, 2019 - 09:54
  • Updated : Sept 20, 2019 - 09:54

As banking goes mobile, retail banks are trying to figure out what to do with their increasingly empty branches.

One idea is to give customers more reasons to stop by, like a cup of Paul Bassett coffee, a Krispy Kreme doughnut or a chance to browse through some new books.

Woori Bank, one of South Korea’s three major retail banks along with Kookmin and Shinhan, was the first to sublet space in its branch to a retail business in 2016, opening up a corner of its branch in Seoul’s Ichon-dong to the Australian barista-led coffee chain. 

Its second such effort led to the Krispy Kreme-Woori Bank joint branch in the Lotte World mall in Seoul’s Jamsil area. 

Woori Bank’s branch in Lotte World Mall in Seoul shares its space with a Krispy Kreme Doughnut outlet. (Woori Bank)

NH Bank, affiliated with the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation or NongHyup, is experimenting with a marriage of grocery shopping and banking by operating stores in its grocery chain, Hanaro Market, inside bank branches and vice versa.

KEB Hana Bank offers crafts, books, gardening and home interior items as part of the company’s diverse “Culture Bank” strategy.

Its branch in Gwanghwamun, an area with a high concentration of offices, including government ministry headquarters, quadruples as a bookstore, cafe and pub. The aim is to lure office workers nearby to enjoy a book and coffee or beer, with plenty of sitting areas and even seminar rooms. 

KEB Hana Bank’s branch in Gwanghwamun doubles as a bookstore, cafe and pub frequented by people who work nearby. The teller windows are closed after banking hours in this photo. (Lee Sun-young/The Korea Herald)

BMK, a Busan-based lender, has partnered with convenience store 7-Eleven, installing a small mart inside its branch.

On Thursday, Shinhan Bank announced a partnership with another convenience store chain, GS Retail, in the latest example of what once would have seemed an unlikely business tie-up as more banks try to figure out what a bank branch of the future should be like.

By Lee Sun-young (