Riyadh bank's 'coffee shop' branch helps lure new customers

Alawwal managing director Soren Nikolajsen says the Ibda cafe bank branch in Riyadh's Nakheel Mall is 'by far' the most active of the bank's branches, with a higher proportion of young and female customers
Riyadh bank's 'coffee shop' branch helps lure new customers
Originally opened in April 2017, the Ibda café is located in Riyadh’s busy Nakheel Mall and is operated as a partnership between Alawwal and Costa Coffee. Image: Alawwal Bank.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Sun 17 Feb 2019 02:19 PM

Saudi Arabia’s Alawwal Bank has experimented with a coffee-shop inspired bank branch in Riyadh in a bid to woo new customers and improve their banking experience, according to managing director Soren Nikolajsen.

Originally opened in April 2017, the Ibda café is located in Riyadh’s busy Nakheel Mall and is operated as a partnership between Alawwal and Costa Coffee.

In an interview with Arabian Business, Nikolajsen said that the coffee shop serves to attract potential customers to the bank branch, often without them being aware of where they are.

“Customers walk into this mall, right into the food court, and suddenly find themselves in a coffee shop,” he explained. “They suddenly find out where they are, and didn’t even know they were in a bank….nobody goes into a bank because they want to. They go because they have to.”

Nikolajsen added that the branch – largely because of the ‘pull’ of the coffee and croissants on offer – has far exceeded Alawwal’s expectations and now opens double the amount of new customer accounts than the bank’s next best performing bank branch.

He noted that it is now “by far” the most active of Alawwal’s 65 branches.

“We never expected that,” he said. “We’re learning a lot of things by having that one branch. We have a higher proportion of younger customers and a higher proportion of female customers, because that’s the kind of people that come into the mall.”

The Ibda Café branch, Nikolajsen added, also uses technology to improve efficiency and the experience of customers.

“You can order a cappuccino and sit down. If you want a new bank account or debit card, you type in your details, and within 10 minutes, before the cappuccino is cold, you have your debit card printed on site,” he said. “In the best case before, that would take a couple of hours, or even two weeks.”

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