12 May 2016
At ANZ’s Haymarket branch in Sydney – in the heart of the city’s Chinatown - there’s no floor four. There’s no room four either. It’s the little things – in this case, recognising the aversion some Asian cultures have to the number four - which branch manager Peter Cai says adds up in the pursuit of the best customer experience.
Such tetraphobia is common among east-Asia nations – particularly in China, where the spoken numeral sounds like the word for death in Mandarin and Cantonese but also in Japan and elsewhere.
" [Our branch is] a fusion of modern design with subtle symbolism from Asian cultures."
It is people from these cultures and more widely in the region ANZ services at the Chinatown branch in Sydney, the bank’s biggest and busiest in Australia. With four customer-focused floors (but no floor four) Cai says the bank is committed to playing a big role in helping the community.
“We are seen as such a big part of the demographic and the Asian community within Chinatown here,” he tells bluenotes. “The site’s been here since 1921 so we’re well-entrenched in the local community.”
ANZ reopened the branch in 2017 after renovations aimed at helping the site better-reflect its place in the local community. The branch redesign includes a number of points of interest aimed at enhancing the banking experience for local customers.
“From the very beginning when we looked at the design of the branch one of my wishes was we wanted the branch to look new but not too vanilla,” Cai says.
ANZ collaborated with Feng Shui Master Hon Cheung on a previous redesign of the branch in 2007 and a lot of those elements were maintained in the most-recent refurbishment. The grand re-opening was hosted on the eighth day of the eighth month under the Chinese calendar– eight of course being a Chinese symbol for good luck.
“Part of the design was we wanted to have a blend of modern design with subtleties and symbolisms that represented the demographics [of the area],” Cai says. “It’s a fusion of modern design with subtle symbolism from Asian cultures.”
Staff at the bank had a workshop with the design architect to discuss how to bring in traditional cultural elements while keeping the design modern. Cai said they eventually decided to embrace modernity while still showing “respect for the area we operate in”.
Part of that design includes a twisting five-story staircase which imitates the flow of a dragon winding its way from the basement to the top floor – one of many a unique cultural markings designed to make the community feel welcome.
For long-time customers Linda and Eric Wong, owners and operators of the renowned Golden Century restaurant in the area, it has strengthened an already significant relationship.
The Wong’s have been with the branch for 28 years, from the first day they arrived in Sydney.
“The first thing we needed to do was to go to ANZ and take out money to use,” Eric recalls. It’s a story shared by migrants to the area who needed cash to make their first move in a new home.
Staffing at the branch is designed with the community in mind, Cai says, with multi-lingual attendants and two international sales desks for new immigrants.
“ANZ Chinatown has helped us a lot,” Linda says, noting staff will make time to go beyond their stations for community members - like for teaching her how to use internet banking.
“Even for the very small things… they’re always like family friends,” she says. “After office hours we can still ring them and say ‘how do I do this?’ and this team is always ready to help.”
“It’s not only a customer-and-bank relationship – they always keep in touch.”
ANZ’s Chinatown refurbishment planning took a total of 18 months, including five when the bank was under construction.
As part of the launch, advertisements were placed social media platforms Weibo and WeChat – popular in China and among Chinese communities offshore.
“When I arrive here, I feel very comfortable,” Eric says. “The space, the lighting, everything. You feel very comfortable.”
ANZ’s managing director retail distribution Australia Catriona Noble said the bank has created a comprehensive banking experience for the vicinity, including up-to-the-minute customer service and digital innovation.
“Customers demand a banking experience that meets their unique needs and values and we are committed to delivering this,” she said.
One such mural on a staircase wall features the Koi fish, which Cai says translates across a lot of Asian cultures.
You can watch Peter Cai chat with ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott about the Chinatown branch and its importance to the community HERE.
“The Koi fish represents abundance, longevity and good fortune,” he says. “We wanted to have that symbolism here.”
“The dragonfly,” another key motif in the design, “symbolises agility,” Cai says. “They’re flexible, they’re nimble they’re agile.”
The dragonfly is a sought-after motif given it symbolises transformation from old to new. Additionally, it can’t fly backwards, symbolising constant forward movement – a feature it shares with the animals on Australia’s coat of arms.
On the middle floor of the branch the staircase swings by a large mural to the family – one Cai is particularly proud of.
“In Asian culture family is very important,” he says. “It’s about the parents and the children and the harmony of the family.”
With two refurbishments in 10 years, it‘s hard to know what lies ahead for a branch, save for a continued deep involvement in the community it operates in. But whatever happens you can probably guarantee it won’t occur on floor four.
Shane White is senior production editor at bluenotes
Additional reporting by Anita Catalano and Pooja Jerjani
The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.
12 May 2016
22 Sep 2016