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Evans Bank branches out with downtown office's look

Evans Bank's new downtown location looks nothing like a traditional branch, and that is by design.

Customers can still drop in for all the typical transactions a branch handles, at a counter just inside the door. But there's also a "business café" with a coffee bar, with newspapers on the table, and a flat screen TV showing the news. And offices inside the building on Lafayette Square are bright, capturing natural light from the corner of Main and Court streets.

David J. Nasca, Evans' president and CEO, said he wants this to be a place where people gather and talk. The bank refers to the location, which opens to the public on Thursday, as a "business and relationship center," instead of a branch.

"We want to invite people in," Nasca said. "We want this to be welcoming. We don't want it to look like a transactional facility."

For two years, Hamburg-based Evans scouted sites for a downtown addition to its network, before choosing the Main Court Building. Bank on Buffalo and Five Star Bank also opened downtown branches in the past couple of years, eager to plant their flags in the city's financial district.

The new-look Evans branch reflects a design change many banks have embraced as they remodel or open new locations. With customers conducting more and more routine transactions online, banks see branches as places to meet with customers face to face about more complex topics, like mortgages.

While Evans' branch is on the second floor, the bank installed signs to the outside of the building on Main and Court streets to promote its presence. The building itself has a banking history, opening in 1963 as the home of Western Savings Bank, and later serving as a home for Goldome operations. Evans poured about $500,000 into renovating the offices. Black-and-white photos on the walls highlight downtown projects that Evans has supported financially.

Bernadette Aja (left), David Nasca and Kevin Brady, in a customer lounge in the new downtown location. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

This is Evans' 15th location, and its third in the city. The downtown location will open at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, and will offer banking by appointment after hours and other "concierge" services, said Bernadette Aja, Evans' senior vice president of retail customer experience.

"If folks around us need a runner to a law office because they have a closing that's pending and they need some help with timing, we have people who will be happy to go there," Aja said. The location will also serve as a place for community development meetings and seminars, she said.

Nasca also sees the Main Court Building location as a way to capture more deposits, tapping into the downtown business clientele.

"We will continue to focus on growing our client base," Nasca said. "We'll take all comers. Think about what's down here. There's a lot of attorneys down here. They're doing a lot of mortgage closings. There's a lot of money flying around in escrow accounts and everything else."

Evans wants the office to be a convenient place to carry financial transactions, he said. And Nasca feels the Lafayette Square address is essential to its plan.

"Don't underestimate the presence of our signage, where we are in downtown," Nasca said. "As the smaller guy, we needed to pop on the scene. This facility enabled us to be right in the center of where the activity is, and to be seen."

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