The innovative format was created in Chile and has been replicated in eight other markets where the Spanish financial institution operates. Its success reveals how foreign investment and local talent are able to create initiatives that can be exported to the rest of the world.
Banco Santander Chile recently reached an important milestone: five years since it launched one of its most innovative projects: Work/Café. Ana Botín, the Executive Chairman of Santander Group, shared an Instagram post on her personal account to mark the occasion.
Botín recalled that it was the Executive Chairman of Santander Chile, Claudio Melandri, who introduced her to the business model for this type of commercial office.
She explains, “we have over 155,000 active clients in these offices in Spain alone” and adds that this is “a model that we’ve extended to all of the countries where we operate, even during the pandemic. We’ve gone from 87 locations in late 2020 to around 150 worldwide.”
The Work/Cafés in Spain receive an average of 180 visits per day. The first branch of this kind to open its doors on the Iberian peninsula was the Plaza Sagrados Corazones office in Madrid in 2018. The format is currently present in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Poland and the United States as well.
Foreign investment, Chilean innovation
After visiting Chile to observe the experience, Botín personally asked all of the country heads for the markets where the Santander group operates to visit Chile and learn about these branches.
The Chilean bank cut the ribbon on its first two Work/Café offices in Santiago on October 6, 2016. The idea came about after it observed that its offices were less functional for their clients due to digitalization.
This led to a plan to create physical spaces that offer more than just banking transactions, providing co-working spaces, meeting rooms and cafés and extending the opening hours for clients and non-clients.
The benefits of these new branches
Work/Cafés are now available throughout Chile. In their most recent presentation to market analysts at the end of the third quarter, Santander executives stated, “we are continuing to transform the branch network, focusing on the Work/Café model and closing less productive locations with lower client flow.”
The objective at the local level is to open eight Work/Cafés over the course of this year. The bank had 62 branches of this kind by the end of September, eight more than it had in 2020.
It reported that it had received 1.3 million unique visits to Work/Cafés through the end of 2020, despite the public health restrictions in place.
The executives added, “this change in our format, together with our digital initiatives, continues to boost productivity, and branch volume is up 16.6% year-on-year while employee volume was up 16.7% during the same period.”
Santander has reduced its presence in physical spaces in order to boost its digital transformation. As of the end of the third quarter, it had closed 7.1% of its branches nationally in order to focus on opening Work/Café locations. There has been a 9% decrease in staffing for classic branches and a 36% decrease for Select offices compared to 2020.
With the arrival of COVID-19, Santander focused on digitizing this type of branch, transferring the physical experience to a virtual space that offers the tools needed to support entrepreneurs and SMEs. Today the Work/Café community comprises more than 120,000 people.
To learn more about Spanish investment in Chile and the foreign banks that operate in the country, check out the following article.
Source: Diario Financiero