Revitalising APS Maltese Branch Design
How do you approach the customer banking experience and deliver a set of design guidelines for future site developments? That was our task at I-AM alongside on-site local architecture firm Forsite. Driven by new levels of consumer expectations and demands, and to unleash the potential of APS we aimed to raise the bar of its customer journey whilst echoing the brand’s essence.
APS History and Values
APS Bank was established in 1910 as one of the projects set up by l’Unione Cattolica San Giuseppe. It was created to encourage saving habits amongst the working class. Since then it has grown into an efficient and trusted financial institution retaining personal banking as its central strength.
APS’s history in banking spans across one hundred years, which has undoubtedly influenced the core values and social responsibilities they hold as a bank. The first and most significant venture was the establishment of a Savings Bank in 1910. Another, was the funding of various projects of a social nature and these were subsidized by the Savings Bank. Various schemes to help the poor, including the distribution of free meals, medicine and free medical care as well as night-school and classes for craftsmen.
Creating APS Customer Journey
For this project, our main objective was to revitalise the image of APS bank through a modern and innovative concept, starting with the prestigious flagship Valletta branch and the new Sliema site. Focusing especially on the Threshold, Transaction and Wait & Browse stages of the customer journey, through a 24-hour lobby, tellers, welcome lounges and semi-private meeting booths.
On a larger scope of work, the aim was to develop a concept that would be translated into a design manual for APS to implement in any future branches. Specifically, designing whilst considering ways to maximize the use of technology in a culturally relevant way and focusing on digital banking channels.
Bank Branch Concept Design
We created the concept of ‘Natural Solidity’, which translates into a smart, functional space using a modern palette and natural materials making it feel welcoming and approachable. This route builds on the brand core, and capitalizes on APS Bank as an establishment with a history and experience within the sector. The concept portrays the bank as dependable, transparent and a partner that can be counted on. We’ve built upon the APS brand mark and colour, developing it throughout each branch. With the bank interior, focusing on simplicity, minimalism, transparency, and clean lines, that provide guidance and reassurance to existing and future customers.
With the Valletta branch, we faced the challenge of the site being an existing build, with a more traditional outer-architecture, which we had to transform into a modern and efficient space. Our design team focused on integrating digital technology within the exterior of the building, with an ATM on one side and a digital screen on the other. The interior translated the theme of solidity by creating a dynamic space with the multi-levelled, cube shaped ceilings. To continue this sense of an open space, we constructed a staircase that cut across the three floors with natural light hitting from the top of the building. In addition, we used natural materials such as wooden timber slacks and locally-sourced Maltese hardstone.
For the Sliema site, one of the key features is the brand wall, with integrated plasma screens showing informative content and lifestyle imagery relevant to the branch’s location. Followed by a 24-hour lobby offering a self-service area, which can be accessed even when the other parts of the bank are closed. The Welcome area was built to have an approachable contemporary aesthetic similar to a lounge, with a mix of upholstered furniture and soft seating. We also designed meeting pods, as well as semi-private meeting rooms with glass screens, which allows a sense of intimacy and transparency all at the same time.