Chase is the latest brand pushing 'IRL' content, with the opening of a huge new flagship retail branch Tuesday in Midtown Manhattan that will host after-hours community events and discussions the bank is dubbing "Chase Chats."
Chase Chats is a series of small group sessions focused on financial-health topics that can range from retirement planning to entrepreneurship. The bank has hosted more than 5,000 Chase Chats in branches across the country this year and aims to double that before 2020.
"Chase Chats will play a large part of our branch strategy," said John McGinley, Chase's head of branch real estate.
"We want our branches to be destinations for our customers – we don't want them to feel transactional. By offering more space for events and experiences, we're able to connect with our customers on a more personal level. That's the goal."
With that, Chase becomes another legacy company seeking to redefine itself in an era of experiential branding.
The New York flagship, and other Chase flagship branches nationwide, are meant to be "experiential locations, where the brand truly comes to life for our customers," through community events or by showcasing the latest technology and experiences before they're introduced to the market McGinley added. The events will include conversations with Chase brand ambassadors like Lindsay Vonn, astronaut Scott Kelly, and former NFL star Victor Cruz.
Chase said it plans to open more flagship branches in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago.
The strategy — marrying financial products with live content — is similar to that of the digital finance company SoFi, which stands for Social Finance and has gained popularity amongst millennials for its low fees and irreverent branding. In addition to the financial products on its platform, SoFi offers free career and certified financial planning advice as well as member events like hands-on workshops and a high-profile speaker series. Last year, for example, it hosted an event focused on teaching members how to be strategic when asking for a raise, that featured Mika Brzezinski.
SoFi plans to continue more "intangible elements" to help users manage their money, CEO Anthony Noto said in a reporter briefing earlier this year.
"We're going to use proprietary and third party content to help educate and answer the questions we know our members have on their minds," Noto said. "It's a very diverse bucket of content; everything from education, to advice, from real-time quotes and news about companies, to content that we're making available from third parties, to content that we're producing."
Between the financial crisis and the rise of technology and digital-everything, dozens of financial startups have launched with the promise to improve customers' financial health and well-being by pairing traditional financial products like loans, investments, and checking accounts (using slick apps with intuitive user experiences) with full-service advice to help them decide which products they need, when, and why.
Nine-year-old NerdWallet and 12-year-old Credit Karma are the de facto content sites for quality, objective personal finance advice written for anyone to understand.
"As a product person, I do not run our content organization, but I do our content as a product, and it's one of our most valuable assets," said David White, NerdWallet's vice president of product. "And as people come to NerdWallet, we can do a better job of explaining all of the things that we need to do to help them make smarter financial decisions and do better."
The opening of the Chase flagship branch comes three weeks after the bank scrapped its nascent mobile banking brand Finn, which was originally envisioned as a mobile-only branchless bank for customers in new markets that aren't dominated by Chase branches.
But the bank maintains that branches are still important to its customers and will invest in them for as long as customers use them. It plans to open 90 new branches by the end of the year, as part of its plan to add 400 branches across 20 new markets to its current network of 5,130. One million customers walk into a branch everyday and more than 70 percent of deposit growth comes from its branches, according to McGinley.
"Customers still value a high-touch environment. We wanted to take that a step further and introduce new programming that focuses on specific customer goals, life stages, and priorities," he said. "It's great to be able to use our branches after hours to host these discussions and events, and reinforce the space as a place to connect with our community."