This Futuristic Branch Gives a Nod to the Past

By David Esworthy

How do you entice customers to check out the cutting-edge innovation at your new branch? Have you considered giving them tin cans filled with grainy, black-and-white photos of folks at work in a century-old factory? If that sounds like an odd choice, read on.

“Yes, we can.”

When First United Bank & Trust opened a new community office in historic Frederick, Maryland, our goal was a branch that would embody our commitment to blending advanced technology with traditional personal service. And to draw people in, we launched a promotional campaign with a surprising approach. Instead of showcasing all of our latest bells and whistles, we invoked images of the building’s past life as a fruit and vegetable cannery.


What does it look like when branch design reflects a marketing message?

It was the dynamic growth and development in the Frederick area that led to the opening of a new branch in the historic—and recently renovated—Monocacy Valley Cannery building. But it soon became clear that this was a unique opportunity to demonstrate how First United has evolved with the times, incorporating the latest tech options for its customers, while continuing to maintain its identity as a bank that has served its community since 1900.

With its bright, open design and glass walls, the brick and wood beams of the old cannery remain visible throughout the office space. By the same token, customers have easy access to both the technologies that can expand their banking horizons and the universal bankers who can guide them through the process.

“We know that millennials are tech-savvy and want the convenience of mobile and Internet banking. But we also know that we still have many customers who want to see and talk to their bankers,” said Carissa L. Rodeheaver, CEO, chairman of the board and president of First United Bank & Trust.  “The Cannery is the perfect location for the introduction of our new approach to the banking experience. We remain true to our traditional banking values while providing customers with the newest technologies and modern conveniences that we have to offer.”

Along with traditional amenities such as free onsite parking, a convenient night-depository for business clients, and a clear focus on the local community, the office also provides automated enhancements that support faster, more efficient transactions. New technologies include an ATM with envelope-free deposit capabilities, video conferencing capabilities to allow for meetings with remote financial specialists, and a “Discovery Center” that features the latest online options for customers.

Helping customers discover new ways of banking.

Our Discovery Center includes multiple touchscreen displays that provide an interactive experience for customers. Bankers can use these displays to demonstrate the latest apps and provide customers with financial education tools.  Digital screens incorporated throughout the branch are also used to highlight local activities and events, as well as spotlight local non-profits and businesses throughout the day. Associates in the office are also heavily involved in various organizations in the local community and will host future meetings and events in the branch’s community room.

This new office offers self-service options, as well as personal one-on-one banking options while elegantly blending the history of Frederick with the traditions and history of First United. The bank does this while adding and offering new, easy and convenient technology to our community. The design also incorporates elements that pay tribute to the cannery’s past as a major manufacturing center in Frederick’s history.

Getting the word out.

We thought that such a bold design statement called for a big debut. So we partnered with Financial Marketing Solutions to come up with a concept for promoting it. This led to the Yes We Can campaign.

We created customized, branded tin cans, and filled them with heavy cardstock paper coasters. On one side of each coaster, a vintage photo of the old cannery portrayed the history behind our new branch. On the flip side was contemporary messaging, listing the things we “can do” differently from our competitors.

We then hand-delivered these cans—along with an invitation to our grand opening event—to local business owners and prospective clients.

To further engage the larger community, we hosted a youth art competition in conjunction with the grand opening. Through that effort, we invited youth-centered organizations to involve their kids in creating window art aligned with the theme of “We Can!” Participants were given the opportunity to display their work in the Cannery Building. The winning youth organization received a $500 prize, and each artist received an “artist appreciation pack.”

David Esworthy is market president serving Frederick County, Maryland at First United Bank & Trust. Email: [email protected].