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Enhancing Customer Experiences

Updated: Apr 23

By Ellen Bouchard • Photos Supplied by Beardsley Architects + Engineers

The NCSB executive team met and discussed the best alternatives to make the Malone project a reality. They knew they wanted to create an innovative, modern space while maintaining the culture of their surroundings. But should they look for an existing property to rehab or construct a new building? The company leaned into what they knew and set out to renovate a place with history and ties to the area. “When people come to us for loans to build a house in their community, in the town they live in, we want them to know we are committed to making it a better place,” said Amanda Sullivan, VP Chief Retail Banking Officer of NCSB. “Choosing an existing structure became a milestone through the whole process. We’ve had so many customers and village residents stop in to say, ‘I used to come here when it was Community Bank or when it was an insurance company. Look at it now! You guys have brought it back to life.’” This consumer response is thanks to finding an existing structure in a perfect location on Main Street. The existing building had good bones, but had been empty for four or five years, abandoned with boarded up windows. Even the exterior was dark and dingy. It started out as a far cry from their ultimate vision and not very welcoming.

With the decision made and the location locked down, NCSB’s next task was to find the right people to take on the work. It was imperative to the team to keep everything local from concept to landscaping. “Who knows the area better than someone from the area,” quipped Amanda in regards to Beardsley Architects + Engineers, the company chosen to lead the venture. Based on successful collaborations in the past and Beardsley’s expertise in working with financial institutions, Michael Reynolds and his team were the right fit. General Contractor Dick Maginn of Heritage Homes executed the designs. “Both of them have a real passion for the North Country and an interest in leaving a legacy of their own as companies, as individuals. It lined up very well with our vision,” shared Bob Polniak, SVP. Chief Risk Officer of NCSB. Everything from HVAC and landscaping, to furniture in the new branch was provided by local businesses.

By the first quarter of 2022, the building had been purchased, an impressive team was in place and construction was ready to begin. Although dilapidated, the building was structurally sound and did not require major repairs to the foundation or plumbing. That meant they could renovate the existing space; a more sustainable approach than leveling and constructing a new building. Reynolds guided the process and kept the team on track.

Overall, the project ran smoothly. There were a handful of obstacles, as one could expect, but working with local companies made them less complicated and more manageable. The cramped layout was a challenge, but they were able to convert existing rooms into areas that fit their needs. “A primary concern was the small size of the existing structure and the need for private spaces. The use of glass maximized the space and created a dynamic user experience,” wrote Beardsley about the project. A closet had the doors removed and was made into a kitchenette. The old vault was converted to a workroom with a copier and IT station. By being resourceful, they revamped what was once gloomy and confined into something light, bright and welcoming.

Privacy concerns, based on the use of so much glass, were addressed by adding vinyl decals to partitions. That made their bottoms opaque while leaving the tops transparent to let light pour in. That gives the space an expansive feeling. The new footprint has an open and inviting lobby with plenty of seating for customers. It also includes an office for private client meetings as well as a conference room for closings. From the outside, it has a real cottage feel that fits in well with the surrounding structures and the culture of Malone.

On June 20, 2023, North Country Savings Bank had its grand opening. All their hopes for the Malone branch had come to fruition. The 2,500 square foot building features two state of the art ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines), the first of their kind for NCSB and the area. The machines look like a traditional ATM in many ways, but allow customers to speak with an employee located remotely with the push of a button. “We see the ITMs as an enhancement to the real banking relationship people can have with us. It’s not just an over-the-counter exchange. The ITM automates some of the pieces that create challenges or stresses in the interaction [between staff and client]. We see the ITM going in a direction that enhances our ability to give the customer a good experience,” explained Brian Coakley, President and CEO of NCSB. Not only is there a pod version inside, a 24/7 ITM is available in the drive-thru. There is also a Loan Processor, Mortgage Processor and a Relationship Banker available in person to assist customers and build relationships to maintain a human touch.

Over the years NCSB has redone several existing buildings or banks, revamping them to have their own identities that fit their communities. The new Malone branch is no different. It has quickly become an asset to Main Street, bringing innovation to the area. It is a stepping stone toward banks of the future, utilizing machines like the ITM to make the client experience more effortless. “Not only has the renovated building provided staff and customers with a better experience, it has also revitalized a previously run-down property and brought a thriving business to the heart of the Malone community,” Sullivan noted. “The owner was great to work with. This project would never have happened otherwise. You can see they were really in love with this idea,” he added.

After hearing the team’s stories and walking through the new branch, it is easy to see how the collaboration between NCSB and local vendors transformed a lifeless space into a beacon for the area. It shows what is possible when people who share a passion for improving the North Country come together.

North Country Savings Bank

217 West Main Street

Malone, NY 12953

518 317-7777

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