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Learning from the Umpqua Bank: look at businesses in another industry

July 21, by Jeroen Geelhoed &samhoud consultancy

The American Umpqua Bank is unique: the branches (or ‘stores’) with the service focused culture of Umpqua Bank look more like community centers where the local people can drink a coffee, where the children can easily be taken to and where a lovely conversation can be made. In addition, individual financial situations can be estimated better through the personal, meaningful approach of the bank. Although the Umpqua Bank has grown to be a bank with more than 400 ‘stores’ (that is how the bank likes to call her various branches), the bank has kept her warm personal appearance of a community bank and stick to her most important core quality, which is the pure focus on customer service. How is a bank able to excel in this?

One of the wise lessons that we can learn of Umpqua Bank, the world’s greatest bank, is to learn from other businesses. Davis, the CEO of Umpqua Bank asked himself ‘how can we differentiate ourselves from the market?’ and decides to look at other sectors that did not have to do anything with banking at first sight. Davis argued: “we are in the retail business”. The most important example of this is the education program of the Ritz-Carlton, but also Starbucks and Apple have been of influence. Ritz-Carlton, a luxury hotel chain with more than 85 hotels and resorts in 29 countries, is known for her complete dedication to treat the customer as king. Also Davis wanted to see this attitude with the employees of his bank, so he sent the frontline staff of Umpqua to education programs of the Ritz-Carlton. Through the education program of the Ritz-Carlton, Umpqua was able to develop her customer service focus, which has become a unique and strong quality of the bank.

Starbucks has also been used as inspiration to make Umpqua Bank the bank she is today. There is not only free internet, an espresso bar and enough seating to read a book or even have a meeting, the interior is also comparable to that of a coffee bar because of the comfortable chairs and couches. Umpqua’s stores are also comparable to those of Starbucks in a different way: just like how Starbucks made coffee a social and esthetic experience instead of a unromantic energy drink, Umpqua bank transformed the banking world through her unique design and working attitude from drab and dusty to something that has a lively goal: creating value for all stakeholders through realizing a unique and memorable banking environment. Moreover, Umpqua, just like Starbucks, can open stores within 40 days instead of a few months because of the small scale and the uniform design. By copying certain methods of Starbucks, Umpqua is able to grow fast without losing track of her unique core characteristic.

A more recent development within Umpqua banks is based on the personal service of experts that Apple provides in her branches. Just like at the Genius Bar of Apple, customers of Umpqua can be supported by an empathic well-informed employee that can quickly use internal tools and sources of information. By the use of mobile digital mediums (e.g. Ipads) employees can easily access accounts and directly give financial insights, instead of having the traditional delay that banks needs to collect certain information.

So, the wise lesson of Umpqua Bank is: look at another organization in a different industry that inspires you and think about how you can apply this within your own organization and if it connects with your own vision. More importantly, don’t be afraid to do the unusual if you really believe in what you are doing!

Would you like to know more about discovering unique business models? Click here:

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This article is an excerpt from the new Dutch book “Briljante businessmodellen in Finance” (Brilliant Bussinessmodels in Finance). Send an e-mail to info@samhoud.com if you are interested in receiving one or more of the cases.

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