|NongHyup Bank CEO Lee Dae-hoon, left, looks at items sold at the lender's second branch that opened inside a NongHyup Hanaro Mart in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, Nov. 14. / Courtesy of NongHyup Bank|
By Kim Bo-eun
Banks have begun developing differentiated branches as they experiment with innovative projects to attract customers in an increasingly competitive and tough market.
Branches have evolved from places simply providing financial services to multifunctional spaces where customers can shop for groceries or sign up for a phone plan.
NongHyup Bank opened such a branch within NongHyup Hanaro Mart in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, in early November.
The latest branch offers differentiated services, enabling customers to purchase groceries while on a visit to the bank. The mini supermarket sells produce from local farms.
The branch also offers services from 8:30 a.m. through 7 p.m. on weekdays.
The branch in NongHyup Hanaro Mart is the second of its kind. The first opened in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, in December last year.
NongHyup Bank opened its first special branch merged with a coffee shop in September 2017, in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul.
Another special branch that opened earlier this year is merged with a bakery.
NongHyup Bank plans to increase the number of special branches.
"The branches are new models intended to boost the number of customers visiting banks, through offering differentiated services by merging banking services with different sectors," a NongHyup Bank official said.
This is based on the growing use of mobile banking services, which has eliminated the need for customers to visit brick-and-mortar outlets.
This is also a new type of profit model, since banks are able to collect rent from coffee shops or bakeries that are within the branch.
Meanwhile, at KB Kookmin Bank's branches in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, customers can sign up for mobile phone plans the bank offers.
Kookmin Bank launched its budget phone service under the name Liiv M in October, after financial authorities in April designated the lender as an innovative service provider, for its project that merges banking and telecommunication services.
It is offering the first budget 5G phone plan, through its partnership with mobile carrier LG Uplus. With designated mobile phone models and the plans the lender offers, customers can more conveniently access the bank's services and get additional discounts on their phone plans.
The bank plans to expand the number of branches which customers can visit to sign up for the phone plan.
Woori Bank was also designated by authorities as an innovative financial service provider, for its project to offer drive-through currency exchange services. The service will be available in December.
Customers will be able to apply for currency exchange on their phones and then pick up the converted cash at the Shinsegae Duty Free Shop in Myeong-dong.
The customer will be identified by their car license plate and other means which will eliminate the hassle of conventional identification processes.
The service will also be available at Woori Bank's head branch in central Seoul.