Ever done a yoga class in a bank branch? Learnt social media skills? Booked a co-working space?
No, me neither.
But if you’re near Manchester, you can do all this and more at the new new branch of B, the digital banking service powered by Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank.
B Works is opening on Market Street bang opposite the Arndale Shopping centre this Monday, 14 January.
It’s taken a digital bank to turn branch banking on its head. I got whisked up to Manchester on Tuesday for a preview of the new B Works space, plus the chance to talk to some of the people involved, and I was blown away.
Check out the resources on offer!
I’m passionate about helping people make the most of their money, and fascinated by how digital banks and fin tech companies can help too.
As a frugal blogger, the best part about using B Works Manchester – it’s all FREE! You don’t even have to be a B customer!
Seriously, there are loads of fab resources focused on entrepreneurs, freelancers, start ups and SMEs (which isn’t a brand of baby formula but refers to small and medium sized enterprises).
You can just rock up and take advantage of:
- co-working spaces and hot desks with charging points and free wi fi
- bookable meeting rooms
- a social media studio, with the backdrop, lighting and sound proofing all good to go. This is a seriously good resource, designed by Steve Bartlett, CEO of Social Chain, the social media marketing agency.
- show case area to highlight a local business, currently with a selection of products from Boohoo, the online fashion retailer and Manchester success story
- info from experts on everything from personal banking to loans and corporate finance, if you’re trying grow your business
- yoga, fitness and mindfulness classes
- booths for private telephone calls
- freshly made coffee, other drinks and even some food (did I mention about the free?)
Plus there’s an Events Programme including guest talks and panel sessions to help develop businesses. For example, you could sign up for a digital skills workshop. B has pulled together an impressive list of partners from the local education and business community to run events and provide expert advice, including The Growth Company, pro-manchester, Freeformers and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Even if you don’t run a business, you can grab a drink and a comfy chair, use the cash points and check out the latest Boohoo products, plus scan the QR codes for 15% discount when ordering online. B Works is spread across three floors, with a casual space on the ground floor, co-working and classes downstairs, and a quieter space upstairs for concentration and private meetings.
And yes, there will be B staff on hand if you want to talk banking. But you don’t have to sign up first. They figure that if you come along for the facilities and events, and like what you see, you might want to become part of B and use their banking services afterwards.
Why bother with a branch?
B can see that traditional bank branches are dying on their feet. Certainly I associate bank branches with grubby carpets, pens on broken chains and queuing behind pensioners and bored business folk paying in wads of cash. Normally, I’d only go to a branch to deposit a cheque or squirm during an interview to open an account.
B reckon 7 in 10 people now bank online. To persuade people to visit a bank branch, and come back again, they reckoned they needed to come up with something completely different.
So B Works is colourfully designed and stylish. The brief was: ‘imagine if Urban Outfitters opened a bank branch’.
B set out to create an informal space that would encourage innovation and creation, support business growth, and change the way their customers interact with them.
Helen Page, innovation and marketing director at CYBG, said: “We’re keen to be inclusive, and create a sense of community. We’re aiming to help the 76% of people with money worries, and do still believe in a physical space.”
They’re trying to welcome everyone from student whizz kids to older entrepreneurs. That’s the major difference – B Works isn’t just for banking transactions. The slogan is “Learn Work Bank”, offering facilities and support to grow a business, not just cold hard cash. I suppose B figure if they can be in at the start, supplying banking services before the next version of Boohoo or Social Chain explode off into the future, they can then come along for the ride.
Certainly Sean Williams, head of customer banking Manchester for CYBG, is looking forward to welcoming a new generation of customers. With decades of experience of corporate banking in the North West, Sean is excited about the chance for B Works to nurture talent and ambition, and help businesses and individuals reach their goals.
Bring on the benefits of co-working
It’s a bright and buzzy space, and just the kind of place I’d love to use when I’m working away. As someone who normally works from home, on my tod, my visit really brought home the benefits of co-working. Chatting with Steven Bartlett, I got to swap ideas, ask a few burning questions, and get some genuinely helpful social media tips from an expert.
My only beef is that there isn’t a branch nearer to me. Elsewhere, there’s a Studio B in South Kensington, and a smaller scale B Works in Birmingham. How about B Hadleigh? I’d be beating the doors down.
Now – over to you. When did you last visit a bank branch? What do you think about the new approach by B Works?
This is a collaborative post with B.