In New York I stumbled upon a bright orange cafe. Ok you might think, just another caffeine-bazaar in garish colours. But no, this turns out to be the retail operation of ING.
The place is staffed by Barrista-Bankers. They can serve you coffee and cake and/or can get you a mortgage. Customers can surf the net, sip their coffee and – if they like – do some banking.
I really liked this idea. This is not just adding a coffee pot to the banking hall, this is a fairly radical rethink of what a retail bank should look like. And it takes a primarily internet bank to think of it.
The detail was good too. Interesting books and gizmos related to money, and staff that seemed very happy to chat informally.
The other banks in New York suddenly looked deeply dull and conservative in comparison.
I’m sure this innovation didn’t come from benchmarking. Somewhere in ING a person or group of people stuck their necks out, took a risk, and did something genuinely different. And really showed they get the idea about creating space for conversations.