Umpqua Bank is undoing the assumption that “cheap competition from Internet banking is killing off the physical sort,” reports The Economist (6/14/14). The first sign of something different is a counter just inside the door that “offers locally made hand cream rather than deposit slips. It has recently been used to peddle pottery, bike components and glasses frames, among other local products.” The bank also hosts “art exhibitions, yoga classes and ‘stitch and bitch’ sessions (group knitting).”
This obviously flies in the face of the typical bank branch, which is “filled with aggressive salespeople pushing ancillary products … similar products in similarly drab surroundings … Umpqua, in contrast … attempts to make even the most mundane transaction a treat. Tellers, for example, hand out a chocolate with each cash withdrawal … Prominently displayed at every branch is a phone which connects directly” to the bank’s president. He says most people who call are just checking to see “if the line is genuine.”
Rather than send out promotional mailings, “Umpqua employees attached small flyers to potted plants, and placed them on 1,700 doorsteps … Phone calls are answered with the words, ‘Umpqua, the world’s greatest bank.” This claim is being put to a new test, with Umpqua’s recent acquisition of Sterling, a regional rival, effectively doubling Umpqua’s footprint to “364 branches spread across Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah.” No longer a small bank, it must now prove it can scale its neighborly charms.