Think of it as the fishbowl bank. In March, National City Bank traded its mausoleum-like offices in downtown Minneapolis for five glass-walled floors in a livelier part of town. The new digs overlook a 100-foot atrium, and customers and passers-by can look in and see the bank's employees at work in Gaviidae Common. "From any angle, you can see into the bank and see people working," said Don Kjonaas, senior vice president of operations at the $650 million-asset institution. "You can see the computers, you can see the check processing, you can see executives, you can see people meeting with people." National City, which is not affiliated with the larger Cleveland-based institution with a similar name, said it selected the new office because it wanted a higher profile in a city dominated by banking giants Norwest Corp. and First Bank System Inc. Now, more than 13,000 office workers daily can see National City's operations as they walk through the maze of skyways that connects buildings in downtown Minneapolis. Foot traffic in Gaviidae Common is also generated by retailers like Eddie Bauer and Saks Fifth Avenue that also flank the atrium. To attract even more attention, the bank installed an eight- by nine-foot video wall that carries CNN programming, as well as local traffic and weather reports. Customers also can use interactive kiosks that calculate loan payments and print out information. A microphone is available to record messages for bankers to follow up on. In three months, the kiosks generated 1,200 requests for information. Executives say they are much happier in their new space. Their former offices were in the district Federal Reserve Bank's old building. "The walls were three feet thick," said Mr. Kjonaas, "and it was located in a dead-end part of downtown Minneapolis."
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