How Thoughtful Design Redefined Branch Banking at OCBC Wisma Atria

Read on to discover how we transformed a bank into a must-visit destination that creates business impact and redefines the future of banking.

Branch Banking Redefined
A Design Tour by OCBC & The Afternaut
23 September 2023

A Community Event of Singapore Design Week 2023

Published by Yeo Ying Jie

As part of Singapore Design Week 2023, we took members of the public on a design tour of OCBC Wisma Atria and shared the thought process behind the design and business decisions of this award winning space. Attendees gained some meaningful insights about the space from two of the brilliant minds behind it — our Design Principal, Gwen Tan, as well as OCBC’s Head of Spatial Design, Franklin Wuu

The bank set out to redefine the branch experience and strengthen its relevance to the modern consumer, and OCBC Wisma Atria is reflective of their efforts to do so. At the heart of the branch’s design was the desire for customers to come away with the feeling that their time at the branch was “time well spent”.

The team revolved the design approach around the concept of “sparking meaningful conversations”, and to achieve this, they integrated the interests, lifestyles, and of course, financial goals of customers into the space. 

At OCBC Wisma Atria, customers can spend their time at the bank in ways that are attuned to their lifestyles as they shop unique design goods and local brands, appreciate art and enjoy great food at the café or omakase restaurant, and even chat with the friendly ambassadors as they share their favourite books or take part in exciting pop-up events. 

These unexpected lifestyle experiences within the branch helped spark conversations, and created opportunities for deeper interactions between customers and the bank. With this, staff members could engage customers in more meaningful, wealth-related conversations.

Here are some key highlights from the session.

Shifting the focus towards the lives of customers

Banking functions have been hidden in the periphery of OCBC Wisma Atria, and instead allows the lifestyle integrations within the space to take center stage. This mirrors the bank’s key message — the lives, dreams and aspirations of their customers are the main focus, while banking services are provided to support customers in achieving their chosen goals.


Encouraging exploration by creating non-linear circulations

When planning the spatial layouts, the designers ensured that visitors, regardless of where or how they enter, would be able to access and fluidly explore the branch. This way, not only do visitors have full control over their own route and can dictate their experience for the day, they are also given the opportunity to enjoy an element of fun and discovery as they explore the space. Having multiple entrances also helps with crowd control as visitors are exploring the space from different directions and each person is creating their own journey.

Segregated yet seamlessly connected spaces, designed to meet customer needs.

Think ‘business in the front, party in the back’ but flip that thought around. To lend the store a more casual and approachable appearance, the team intentionally placed the bookstore, cafe, and service counter towards the main entrance of the branch. 

On the other hand, areas for ‘serious business’ such as personal consultation pods and premium banking rooms were hidden towards the back of the bank. Sushi Moka, an omakase restaurant that often serves OCBC’s premier banking clients, was also placed towards the back of the bank to lend a more private and exclusive air to the restaurant, as well as for the convenience of OCBC’s clients.

This mode of segregation also takes into consideration noise control and privacy concerns. 


Strategically positioned, down to the very last detail

The team was careful to consider even minute details when planning for the space. Even the placement of the books within the branch is strategic and prearranged to enhance visitor experience. 

With the intention of allowing families to better engage with each other and enjoy their time together within the space, the team framed the cafe with childrens’ books and other family-friendly publications. With the shelves just an arms’ length away, families can easily reach out, grab a book, and read together over a cup of coffee.

Additionally, the proximity between these books and the communal cafe space also opens up possibilities for children-oriented events in the future, for example, a group storytelling session.


Bridging the gap between retailers and visitors through unexpected encounters

Opening their outlet inside OCBC Wisma Atria helped local furniture, home decor and lifestyle brand SCENE SHANG to open their doors to welcome unexpected encounters. They’ve received many visitors who unintentionally wandered into their store and discovered their brand amidst their explorations.

Jessica Wong, Founder of SCENE SHANG, once shared that their original flagship store in Beach Road was a destination-driven space; they would typically receive visitors that know of the brand, and visit their store with a clear purpose in mind.

With OCBC Wisma Atria, the brand was given the new pathways for the brand to reach out to greater audiences, and the opportunity to unlock new customer segments.



The launch of OCBC Wisma Atria was met with great success. Not only was there a doubling in foot traffic and OCBC 360 account openings, OCBC credit card applications also increased by approximately 7 times since the launch of the new branch.

The design tour went swimmingly well and the organising team from the Afternaut were happily informed by not one, but two attendees that this was the most insightful design tour at Singapore Design Week that they’ve been on to date!

For more design stories, insights, and events, follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn — @theAfternaut 

Tags: Singapore Design Week 2023, Placemaking, Experience Design, Singapore, Singapore Design, Spatial Design, Designing Futures, Future Places, Future of Banking, Urban Design, Creating Possibilities

The Afternaut Group Pte Ltd. 2024


The Afternaut Group Pte Ltd. 2024