Chicago's South Shore Bank has a plan for catering to its oldest customers while courting younger ones: separate them.
Today the bank will unveil a remodeled branch on Chicago's South Side with distinct sections for its traditional customers-the elderly-and for the young, upwardly mobile professionals moving into the neighborhood.
The section for the elderly includes tellers at desks rather than windows and a spacious waiting area with coffee and doughnuts. The section also has its own drive-up entrance, for easy pickup and drop-off.
The section aimed at younger people has tellers at windows, an electronic banking center, and sales offices where lenders and financial planners can meet with customers.
"When we told people what we were doing here, they said, 'Are you sure you want to do that? None of your competitors look like that,'" said Alicia King, president of retail banking.
"I said, 'I don't care. This is what our customers need.'"
South Shore, a $740 million-asset community redevelopment bank and subsidiary of ShoreBank Corp., is spending about $3.4 million on the renovation.
The branch is in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, home to affluent African-Americans during the 1920s and 1930s but later overrun by gang members and drug dealers. The neighborhood has rebounded of late, however, with younger professionals buying and restoring some of its older properties.
Chris Hargrove, a consultant with Professional Bank Services in Louisville, Ky., said South Shore's dual-purpose branch "plays to the strengths of both sides."
Older customers are important to a bank like South Shore because they often keep substantial deposits. Younger customers, who typically take out loans and use automated teller machines, generate fee income.
W. Marion Bamman, the project architect from St. Louis-based Bank Building Corp., said redesigning the branch was a visual and spatial challenge. The rectangular building had not been remodeled since the late 1950s.
South Shore wanted "a living-room atmosphere for the elderly and a splashy electronic atmosphere for the younger customers," he said.
The tellers are grouped in a circle at the middle of the branch-three of them at desks, to deal with elderly customers, and seven at standing stations. The seniors' side is also closest to the safe-deposit boxes and has more space for general seating.
"The elderly aren't going to come in and apply for a loan," Mr. Bamman said, "but sometimes they're at the bank for an hour waiting for someone to pick them up."
Margaret Cheap, the bank's president, expects branches to remain popular with customers despite a general push in the industry toward cheaper delivery channels. In fact, she said she is surprised other banks have not created dual-purpose branches.
"I know other banks share our demographics," she said. "It's about listening to your customers."