With research showing that branches are a great vehicle for selling investment products, many banks are turning to changes in branch design to attract business.

Charlene Stern, a senior vice president at NewGround Resources Inc., a consulting firm in Berkeley, Calif., said that redesigning branches is a way to help banks become more "customer-centric," which is increasingly necessary to succeed as a broker or adviser.

"Banks need to ask themselves: 'What would we do with a customer's time if we were fortunate enough to have it?' " Ms. Stern said. Eliminating tellers and lines, and making investment literature a fundamental part of the branch's presentation will help persuade depositors - especially younger ones - to consider investing through their bank, she said.

Cullen/Frost Bankers, the holding company for $7.7 million-asset Frost Bank in San Antonio, remodeled eight branches to look more like Starbucks coffee shops. "Typical bank branches communicate the business we were in 25 years ago -- not the business we're in today," said Paul Olivier, an executive vice president at the bank.

Frost Bank began overhauling its branches in March 2000. It downplayed tellers by moving them to the back of the office, and emphasized investment by carving out space for advisers to chat with customers and by setting up interactive computer programs to help customers design financial plans.

"We are trying to create a different environment - one more conducive to selling investment products and one that positions us better with younger audiences," Mr. Olivier said.

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