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Banking and Coffee?

Exchangebankcoffeehouse_logoBlame it on my Seattle location, but I continue to believe there are good synergies between banking and the so-called coffee culture, both on- and off-line (full disclosure, I’m writing this in a coffee shop). I’m not talking about converting bank branches to coffee shops like Exchange Bank Coffeehouse (left); but using espresso and other coffee and tea tie-ins as a perk for banking online and/or other product usage.

Here’s why banking and espresso go well together:

  • Brand image: Thanks to Starbucks, coffeehouses have developed into a pop culture phenomena that is unlikely to fade in our lifetime (evidence: nearly 10,000 Starbucks locations worldwide, growing 1300+ per year). The community-building, relaxed, and relatively wholesome image of the modern coffee shop fits well with the brand images many financial institutions are attempting to convey.
  • Traffic patterns: Banking is usually a daytime activity, correlating well with coffee consumption.
  • Real estate: Whether located in a city center, suburb, or small town, bank branches are usually located in high-traffic locations. They often have enough extra space to squeeze in an espresso station and a few small tables.
  • Promotional opportunities: For years Horizon Air, a regional provider owned by Alaska Airlines, used its Starbucks beverage service to attract customers to its routes. Banks could do the same thing.


This is not a new concept. Umpqua Bank has had great success with its retail model that included coffee service and no teller line. The bank’s website carries a subtle coffee theme throughout with terms such as, find your own blend and savor. It’s Experience Umpqua Flash presentation starts with a close-up of a coffee mug on a table in the branch.

ING Direct operates four urban cafés in the United States that serve coffee and pastry along with financial advice. No transactions are processed on-sight, but customers have access to Internet terminals and ATMs.

Charterone_starbucksBut the bank closest to what we have in mind is Charter One Bank. Prior to its being bought by Royal Bank, the Cleveland-based bank embarked on a co-location program with Starbucks (see inset, Post & Washington, Indianapolis).

Financial institution opportunities
Partner with Starbucks or a local chain to create a joint banking and beverage program

  • Develop a usage program with free coffee as the perk, for example, paying two bills online each month and/or estatements instead of paper
  • Offer a prepaid coffee option that allows coffeehouse purchases to be charged directly to credit or debit card, or deducted directly from checking
  • Consider expanding the concept beyond transactional banking, with coffeehouse tie-ins for investments (see, The Coffeehouse Investor, OBR 49)
  • Use the book, The Coffeehouse Investor, as an incentive/premium
  • Use it as an incentive for going totally online, for example, "Go to XYZ Coffee Shop instead of the branch"