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Remember when? The evolution of the bank branch

Goodbye to intimidating counters and closed offices. Contemporary banks strive to be open, inviting spaces

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Canadian banks have undergone an evolution in design and function over the years. Here, the interior of a Royal Bank of Canada branch in Cambridge, Ont., in 1922.

Royal Bank of Canada

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High counters and closed offices were the hallmarks of many Canadian bank branches of the era, like this Royal Bank in Morden, Man., in 1926.

Royal Bank of Canada

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That trend continued well into the century. Here a Bank Of Montreal branch at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue in Toronto. These neighbourhood bank branches used to be the only places where consumers could conduct financial transactions.

Bank of Montreal

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Remember standing in line? This is a Royal Bank branch in Waterloo, Ont., at Albert and Hazel streets, in 1978. Over the past 30 years, the role of these neighbourhood branches has changed dramatically as consumers have turned to ATMs, and online and mobile banking, and subsequently have visited their branches less often.

Royal Bank of Canada

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A Royal Bank branch in Campbellton, N.B., in 1982. Now, banks want to renew their face-to-face relationship with customers by revamping existing properties into more customer-friendly sites and creating smaller, more flexible footprints in tight urban cores.

Royal Bank of Canada

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Here, the new exterior look of Bank of Montreal branch at Queen and Portland streets in Toronto. The bank has rolled out 17 small-format ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘studio’ branches to date, with plans to open and convert an additional 17 during the remainder of 2013 and 2014.

Bank of Montreal

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‘We’re trying to get our bankers out from behind closed doors,’ says Paul Dilda, head of branch channel for North America, Bank of Montreal. Here an open-concept branch at Yonge and Gerrard streets in Toronto.

Bank of Montreal

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At the Bank of Montreal branch at Highway 50 and Ebenezer Road in Brampton, Ont., customers can sit down at wickets.

Bank of Montreal

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A new Royal Bank of Canada branch in Toronto’s Liberty Village on Hanna Avenue. RBC has about 50 'new look' branches in place, with another 30 to 40 slated this year. The goal is to make the bank branch a ‘welcoming place to go,’ says Lawrence Spicer, vice-president channel strategy.

Royal Bank of Canada

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Inside, customers are greeted by a ‘discovery zone’ with a welcome screen, an online banking ‘touchdown space’ and interactive Microsoft Surface technology. ‘[People] may do more of their transactional banking on their mobile apps, because it’s quick and convenient and it’s pretty slick. But when they want to sit down and talk about RRSP and get some more detailed advice, they want to know there’s a place in the community that they can go,’ Mr. Spicer adds.

Royal Bank of Canada

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