Banco Bradesco , one of Brazil's largest banks, just opened a branch in São Paulo's high-end JK Iguatemi Mall . Bradesco's new branch, however, is no ordinary banking outlet. The São Paulo storefront will instead be a showcase for state-of-the-art banking technology that won't make it to North America or Europe for years. Biometric ATMs that respond to a user's biological features? Ipad-style touchscreens for all transactions? Smart walls for bank employees that automatically turn oblique when clients come in to discuss their mortgages? Check, check, and check.
The branch, called Bradesco Next, is a showcase for new interactive banking technologies jointly developed by the bank and Portuguese retail technology house YDreams . ATMs inside the two-story space have biometric logins where users can access their account via hand recognition. Although a few banks in Europe and Japan have been experimenting with biometric logins for customers, Bradesco is one of the largest banking firms to embrace cardless ATM access. In addition, ATMs send receipts via email to minimize paper waste and are placed at an angle to make snooping from customers in line more difficult. Instead of having ATM users stand next to each other--which allows for simple snooping--an angular setup is designed to discourage peeking over another user's shoulder.
Customers are given space in a separate room to speak with digital avatars who can give detailed account information. When customers enter the room, the glass walls automatically frost to ensure privacy. If the digital avatar is unable to provide assistance, or if customers are unwilling to talk with the digital consultant, they are given the option to instantly connect with an on-screen human investment specialist.Bradesco, which has been aggressively pursuing biometric products , placed biometric hand readers at the entrance that automatically identify Bradesco customers with information on file. A significant number of Bradesco customers have already given the bank their biometric information. The banking experience at interactive displays and touchscreens is then tailored to their account needs. A robot greeter at the entrance also provides assistance to walk-ins; when foot traffic is low, the robot's programming also has it hover near the bank entrance to attract new walk-ins.
YDreams' managing global director Filipe Vasconcellos told Fast Company that the goal for the project was to “make banks a little bit cooler” and that emphasis was placed on the creation of a smart bank that recognized patrons and custom-tailored the ebanking experience to their needs. The robot greeter was chosen for the novelty factor, and to “charm” potential non-Bradesco customers.
The remainder of the Bradesco and YDreams space contains large, wall-mounted touchscreen displays and interactive tables familiar to visitors to the Consumer Electronics Show or corporate showcase retail spaces in New York, San Francisco, London, or Tokyo. A lounge area also allows customers to read magazines and order drinks via a giant touchscreen table. Users are also able to interact with the in-store touchscreens via their smartphone's ebanking app.
“The challenge was to create an innovative space to interact with our clients, a place where technology would adapt to their needs and allow for interaction, something that would match our view of how the relationship between bank agencies and customers would be conducted in the future," says Bradesco executive director Candido Leonelli.
Bradesco's remaining interactive displays include life-cycle simulators that guide users through financial needs for home purchase, education, marriage, and other life phases. Unlike conventional touchscreen displays at retail spaces, however, the bank's panels are biometrically enabled. Instead of manually entering numbers, figures, and names, Bradesco customers can put their hands on the giant touchscreen and instantly generate long-term savings and investment plans.
Technological innovation in retail banking has been a sore spot for American firms. With the exception of newcomers like Square  and Isis , the United States has lagged behind most of the industrialized world in consumer banking technology. European ATMs routinely allow users to pay utility bills, and chip-and-PIN credit cards (which require users to enter a PIN, similar to a debit card) are standard fare outside of North America. American banks are stuck in a Catch 22 for unveiling whiz-bang ebanking tech: Only the biggest banks have the funds necessary to integrate emerging technology into the customer experience, but those banks serve so many customers that costs are prohibitive even for pilot programs.
Bradesco, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, is hoping to promote their bank as one of the world's tech-savviest with the space. Bradesco Next opens this week.
You can see more of Bradesco Next here .
[Images via Egberto Nogueira]