The project has revamped the SupremeGold visual identity and the physical design of dedicated locations. A TVC (above) and print ads will soon promote the new image. More importantly, the bank, along with branding agency Prophet, has undertaken a thoughtful reconstruction of the 'user experience' that appears worthy of that oft-abused term.
BEA addressed the mass market in an earlier rebranding exercise, but knows that getting its high-end offering right is a must. Vincent Hui, general manager at teh bank, explained the need for the change—and the stakes.
"This segment is actually the most profitable segment, and one of the most important target customers of the bank, because all these are high-net-worth customers," Hui said. But the SupremeGold branding, launched about 10 years ago, was failing to connect with an increasingly important subset of wealthy Hong Kongers.
"The driver of this was the demographic shift that's happening with the new generation of local Chinese, mass-affluent customers coming into the market for financial services," said David Brabbins, associate partner at Prophet.
This younger segment didn't find the old brand appealing—unsurprising because the bank originally devised it with their parents or grandparents in mind. SupremeGold originally targeted 40- to 60-year-old customers, Hui confirmed. Thus it revolved around "conservative and prudent" cues, and had become "a bit aged".
"We want to make the customers more attached or engaged, and in this case they will take BEA as their key operating bank," Hui said. "So SupremeGold becomes the key offering, such that we also enhance not only the physical network, but also the people, the processes and the whole product offering."
Visual identity and beyond
With Prophet, BEA decided on a theme that evokes a healthy progression: wealth, health, happiness. The visual identity stems from intricate paper-cut artwork and uses a local vocabulary—blossoms, goldfish—to communicate the ideas of growth and lifelong relationships. "We're using familiar local Chinese metaphors, but executed in a fresh, engaging way," Brabbins said.
The revamped SupremeGold Centers echo the design with light-blond wood flooring, purple- and orange-hued furniture and a wall covered in greenery.
If that doesn't sound like most banks, it's no mistake. "It looks not in common with other banking centers," Hui said. "Others make heavy use of blue or black, heavy colors, for a 'professional' image. But our image is more about going to an enjoyable hotel or restaurant or exclusive club."
How important is the design of a physical location in an age when most people would prefer to avoid branch visits altogether? Hui and Babbins both hastened to point out that BEA is working full-steam on improving its digital and mobile capabilities, and Hui allowed that customers already accomplish more than 80 per cent of transactions electronically.
Yet especially for high-net-worth customers, and especially for the long-term wealth-management services BEA so badly wants to provide for them, visits to a physical location are often necessary. A risk-assessment analysis takes time, and many investment transactions have compliance requirements for not only signatures but also audio recording of consent.
"We are still very focused on the development of the center because when customers reduce their frequency of visiting branches or SupremeGold centers, it means that it's very important for you to impress your customer when they do come," Hui said.
Babbins added that many people value the "high-touch" approach, and experience remains a key differentiator, especially in Hong Kong. "This is quite a small place, and everyone's fighting over the same customers," he said. "All banks are trying to differentiate on the experience, in addition to offering, say, the best mortgage rates. Theory and data support that delivering a good experience is supportive of good business."
It's also about bragging rights and word of mouth, Hui indicated. "If you really want your customers to regard you as a key operating bank, you should be able to impress your customers such that they can be really proud of banking with you," he said. "If you have a very outstanding center and image and branding, then when they are talking with their friends, they will be proud of sharing the experience."
Finally, Hui believes a pleasant environment can help ensure continued loyalty. "Next time you have to ask them to come in for some kind of complex transaction, they won't resist coming in, because they will know the environment will be nice," he said.
Thus one of BEA's centres, in Hong Kong's Times Square, is on a high floor with a sea view. And a visitor will be greeted and checked in by an employee using an iPad. Impressive? Perhaps. But what of the actual customer experience?
Hui is eager to explain how the bank's parallel efforts on the digital front have delivered an interactive digital tabletop that relationship managers in the SupremeGold centres will use to lead customers through even complex processes.
In many banks, Hui said, such processes can be annoying, with mountains of paper documentation, plus need for employees and sometimes the customer to scurry around to make deposits, certify consent and obtain manager approvals.
BEA's interactive tabletop, by contrast, allows a single relationship manager to walk a customer through the necessary steps, obtain digital signatures and record audio consent without leaving the room. At the end of this "clean, focused, concentrated" process, a single signature on a single piece of paper is all that's required for compliance purposes, he said.
Before leaving, customers also get to participate in a lucky draw (because even people who can buy anything they want enjoy freebies).
"The customer will always have something on hand as they go away," Hui said. "They will be impressed with the way of interaction, and then the small gift and a nicely designed SupremeGold bag…they go away satisfied and with a lot of enjoyment."
The bank has soft-launched the rebranded SupremeGold experience to existing customers and with cinema ads. The main promotion campaign launches in September—presumably because the target customers are currently enjoying the south of France or some more exotic vacation destination.
Yet Hui said BEA is already "getting very satisfactory results from new customer acquisition and from the deposits that we are getting." The bank is also gathering quick-response feedback with iPad-driven polling of visitors to the centres. More than 90 per cent so far rate the experience as very satisfactory, he noted.