Does Your Building Need a Little “Swoosh”? How an Architectural Firm Helped a Bank Become the Most Recognizable Brands in Their Market

Does your building or office reflect your brand? It’s a question that we often ask our clients and we’d love to hear your answer. With DxDempsey celebrating our 14th anniversary this year, we are highlighting a company that has been with us almost since the start …

When DxDempsey first got started, we worked from an attic office in Scranton then soon after moved into a business incubator downtown. One of our earliest projects was the design of a bank branch for Fidelity Bank, based in Dunmore, PA, where I happen to be born and raised so this bank was close to my heart for good reason. By the time they came to us, Fidelity had already made big moves in terms of their retail branch experience. These included the addition of a concierge to greet customers and using recyclers – machines that count money so the teller can engage with the customer – as two examples. However, the outside of the bank did not yet reflect the innovative inside. For the next branch, the board was considering small steps towards a new look. They asked me, “What would you do?”

I was happy to answer and we pitched a whole new look for the branch that matched the innovative interiors. Our concept was a glass box with a roof that “swooshed” upward; Fidelity would have a building that would be so much a part of their brand that they wouldn’t even need a sign. When I showed the board a rendering of this concept during my presentation, along with a litany of reasons why they needed to be this forward-thinking, the room went completely quiet. Crickets.

                        Fidelity Bank Branch, Pittston, PA

The current President and CEO of Fidelity, Dan Santaniello, who was head of the retail banking department at the time, likes to tell the story of what happened next. But I’ll tell it to you here for your convenience. First, the board sent me back to the drawing board. “We want to look more like … a bank,” they said. “Come see us in a couple of weeks.I was completely deflated. I felt strongly that it had to have the swoosh. I was confident they were missing a huge opportunity. So I made a bold decision and I knew it would either be a success or I would lose the biggest project my fi rm ever had up to that point. I decided I was willing to take the risk. Two weeks later I went back and unveiled the design. It was the exact same! But, here’s what I did first: I put up a slide that was peppered with pictures of local buildings. These were all actual area pharmacies, funeral homes and bank branches, many of which looked like houses. The key was that I had removed their signage. Not only couldn’t the board identify any of the buildings—they didn’t even recognize a couple of their own branches!

So now when I flipped to the next slide and showed the “swoosh” they instantly “got” it. They approved the design and were also completely on board with our approach of incorporating green principles. The idea of being green resonated with the bank’s brand and purpose. Not only would they be showing genuine concern for the health of the community and environment, but they would also be recycling money back into the community through loans and regular banking activity. When it was complete, the West Scranton branch even received a commendation from U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and the Environmental Defense Fund. Now we are about to do a third “swoosh” branch with Fidelity in Dallas, PA. People love the swoosh. Mr. Santaniello says it has helped Fidelity become the most recognizable community bank brand in the market. He even recently received an email from the mother of a teenager who picked Fidelity as her bank because the branch was “so cool”.

First Columbia Bank & Trust, Bloomsburg, PA

West Milton State Bank, Northumberland, PA

But the branch doesn’t just look cool, it works! We apply the science behind what makes a bank branch work – carefully integrating the latest technology while choreographing a fi rst rate customer experience. We understand that as transactions decrease due to online banking, branches have to evolve into an environment in which trusted advisors will take care of customer’s more complex needs. In addition, our “special sauce” is our ability to marry our retail experience – we have a deep history of designing specialty retail stores on the strip in Las Vegas – with our knowledge of financial institutions. We know how to attract people, how to bring people in the door and inspire them to understand what is being offered and how it can benefit them.

Since we began our relationship with Fidelity, the bank has grown organically from $565MM to $855MM in an area with a stagnant population! We are proud to be part of that impressive success. This has not only led to work with other community banks, such as West Milton State Bank and First Columbia Bank and Trust, but it has also led to us to designing a new corporate headquarters for Fidelity Bank. We intend to make their headquarters building and office space just as forward-thinking and distinctive. It started with a bank branch and led to a headquarters. As a leading designer of Strategic Branded Experiences for banks and corporations, we are excited to continue to help Fidelity translate their brand story into a physical experience that integrates sustainability and drives bottom line results.


Many of my clients are business owners or senior managers so when I found these startling statistics recently it made me re-look at how I was running my business and want to share them with you in this newsletter.

1) Price is not the main reason for customer churn, it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service – Accenture Global Customer Satisfaction Report 2008.

2) A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related – Bain & Company.

3) The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Marketing Metrics.

4) For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent – Lee Resource.

5) A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10% – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy.

6) 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back – 1Financial Training Services.

7) A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

8) Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

9) 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated – McKinsey.

10) 55% of customers would pay extra to guarantee a better service – Defaqto research.

11) Customers who rate you 5 on a scale from 1 to 5 are six times more likely to buy from you again, compared to ‘only’ giving you a score of 4.8. – TeleFaction Data Research.

12) It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience – “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner.

13) A 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 5-95% – Bain & Company.

14) It costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one – Bain & Company.

15) eCommerce spending for new customers is on average $24.50, compared to $52.50 for repeat customers – McKinsey.

If we could put a plug in the bath, we may not need to run so much hot water. Based on this overwhelming research why do businesses spend some much time and money trying to win new clients and so little trying to retain, re-sell and get referrals for their existing clients? Knowing these statistics might change perceptions but sadly will not change many behaviours. How about you and I be one of the few who take action.

– written by Richard Petrie

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