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design:case Three years ago, Max Bank decided to invest in service design. That proved to be a good business decision. The following year, Max Bank had the best result in its 100-year history as well as the highest customer satisfaction ratings among Danish banks.

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• 200 employees • Established in 1901 in Næstved • The original name was Håndværkerbanken

(“The craftsmen’s bank”), but in 2004 the name

was changed to Max Bank

• The name Max Bank was chosen because it

expresses the bank’s goal of going for the max

– in the interest of customers, shareholders

and staff

• HQ in Næstved • 8 branch offices around Denmark • Max Bank was the first Danish bank to establish

a café-style environment in the bank

• Today, all eight branches have implemented

the café concept

Max Bank 9, Jernbanegade 4700 Næstved Denmark Tel +45 5578 0111

“You can use design to maximise service levels and customer satisfaction.” That is the unambiguous message from Max Bank, which has seen impressive growth rates and the highest degree of customer satisfaction in the bank’s history after a major investment in service design in 2004.


A new service concept

best result; the designer has an important and crucial role, as

Max Bank used to be like most other banks, where customers

the designer’s creativity brings new and different perspectives

are serviced at the counter. But in the face of growing

into the problem-solving process,” says Hans Verner Larsen.

competition, the bank developed a new strategic plan in 2001. The plan aimed to ensure Max Bank the best customer relations

And it was quite a make-over. Together with Retail Institute

of any bank in Denmark by shifting from tradition to innovation.

Scandinavia the bank decided that one of the ways of changing

One element in this comprehensive strategic plan was to change

from traditional bank to an innovative, service-oriented bank

the interior design to reflect the bank’s values in a modern and

would be to change the interior design into a café setting.

innovative way. “To make banking a viable business today, you

With the café-banking concept Max Bank made banking history.

have to stand out from the crowd and be innovative. That is

Max Bank was the first bank in Denmark to combine bank and

the way to generate growth, which till benefit the customers.

café and to replace the counters with sofas.

We knew that we had to differentiate ourselves from the competition in order to survive. And we were going to do that by

Although the new strategy meant major changes, it was

being different and by offering the best service. To achieve this,

important for the bank to remain true to its essential values.

we contacted experts in different fields to assist us,” says Hans

Hans Verner Larsen explains:

Verner Larsen, Managing Director of Max Bank. A make-over In designing a new and unconventional banking concept with a stronger emphasis on service than the competition, Max Bank worked with designer and homeliness expert Birgitte Rodh, consultancy firm Retail Institute Scandinavia, and ad agency COMING/1. “We made a deliberate choice to include competencies from a variety of industries in connection with the make-over of the bank, as we felt that this would ensure the



“Although, in a sense, the café concept helped introduce an entirely new style in Max Bank, the café is in fact just an extension and a reflection of the bank’s values and history. We have always been different and done things differently. Hence, the café concept was a good and credible modernisation of the bank.”



Service via design

Good advice from Max Bank •

Focus on living up to contemporary consumer


Be aware of the service opportunities in

the product you are handling

Talk to experts in other industries,

and consider whether you might transfer some

of their services to your own area of business.


that are built through frequent contacts and an informal

Max Bank has worked strategically with service design to be

approach. Our focus on service design has helped form the basis

able to meet any customer’s needs and maximise customer

for the bank’s close customer relations – and this is, essentially,

satisfaction. “In banking, good service is crucial for the bank’s

good for business,” says Hans Verner Larsen.

ability to maintain its customer base and bring in new customers to generate growth. Café-banking lets us adapt our services


to the individual customer. For example, parents can bring their

The café concept has renewed the bank space and set new

children, and while the parents discuss bank matters over a cup

standards for the way customers move through a Max Bank

of coffee in the soft furniture, the kids watch a cartoon in the

branch and what they can do while they are at the bank.

pillow corner with a bag of sweets. It is crucial for Max Bank to

In a traditional bank, the interior design tends to constrain

provide good service, as this turns a bank visit into a welcome

customer’s movements, as most service transactions take place

break for the customer,” says Hans Verner Larsen.

at the counter. The café setup offers the individual customer more latitude. Additionally, it helps create a less hierarchical

And Max Bank does offer a welcome break in many respects.

space, as there are no counters, desks, or counselling areas.

The café concept gives the individual customer additional

The bank’s focus on service design helps put bank and customer

reasons to visit the bank –having a cup of coffee with friends

on a more equal footing, which creates the basis for a financial

and family or reading the daily newspaper. While traditional


banks have short customer visits, Max Bank has extended visits because the café encourages customers to stick around. The

“Max Bank’s café design presents the bank as an open and

desire to make the customer spend more time at the bank also

laid-back company with an emphasis on service and an even

reflects the desire to establish a personal relationship between

dialogue. The café setup also provides flexibility, as tables,

bank and customer. “The café enables us to form financial

chairs and room-dividers are light and mobile. This design

friendships with our customers, based on close relationships

concept promotes mobility and personal choice. Max Bank’s interior design is a good example of user-oriented service design,” says designer and homeliness expert Birgitte Rodh.

A HOMELY BANK Since its implementation in 2004, café-banking has become an increasingly important platform for Max Bank’s services. While early versions at first sight looked like a café inside a bank the

between customer and bank,” says Hans Verner Larsen.

“We have used design to make the new branch more informal in order to promote a homely and relaxed atmosphere, and we have established a wireless internet connection. This lets customers handle their bank business in front of the computer in a homely setting. And that is a service that our customers appreciate,” says Hans Verner Larsen.

According to Max Bank, another reason why ‘bankliness’ was

But why homeliness in a bank? “We put a priority on making

replaced with homeliness is that things have changed in the

the latest new branch in Århus homely, because homeliness

world of banking, as most customers now handle their everyday

helps build a relationship between customer and bank. It also

financial business themselves on the computer. Hence,

promotes the bank’s core values: time, close relations, quality,

customers might only visit their bank a few times a year, unless

and innovation,” says Birgitte Rodh.

latest Max Bank branch in Århus looks more like a café than a bank. Only the flat-screen monitors with the latest economic figures reveals that this is a bank. “We chose this interior design approach because we wanted to move the living room into the public space and create a homely bank. It offers the customers a safe and natural environment and It´s a service we want to offer because homeliness provides a good basis for the meeting

the bank offers good, innovative services - this is a trend that Max Bank seeks to factor into the design of all its branches, particularly the latest one.

Pre-tax profit (in millions DKK)

Market value of the bank’s share capital (in millions DKK) 120


1169,6 1.000


111,9 100

• six times higher over 4 years 800

• twice as high over 2 years


74,6 693,5



565,8 51,0





385,1 20


189,8 0













Design plays a key role in all Max Bank’s branches. Both the overall setting and the details have been approached from a design perspective to ensure consistency and a clear design philosophy. The Århus branch in particular expresses a strong DO YOUR HOMWORK BEFORE YOU ENGAGE

awareness of service design. “I paid very close attention to


Max Bank’s values, and based on these values we designed the bank together. I suggested that they use wood in the interior

Good advice from Max Bank

design, because wood is an organic material that takes a long time to mature. Using wood is an indirect way for Max Bank

1. Recognise your limitations:

to emphasise the core values of time and quality. Throughout

Be open-minded, and allow yourself to find

the design process we focused on making the interior design

inspiration in areas outside your own

express the service design and the values that Max Bank

immediate settings.

represents: being the Danish bank with the best customer relations,” says Birgitte Rodh.

2. Ensure clarity:

You must be aware of your own values and

goals from the outset. Define your objectives

and expectations of the project, and make

sure that they match the designer’s goals

and expectations.

3. Find the right designer:

Do some market research and listen

to recommendations.

4. Include design from the outset:

Include the design aspect in all work processes.

That ensures the best and most consistent


5. Get involved:

Be active, and take part in the design process.

It is important that you have a key role in

managing the process.

6. Be committed:

Involve the entire company in the design

process. This gives the employees a sense

of ownership over the project.


A CHANCE THAT PAID OFF The café concept meant taking a chance, even with the very thorough groundwork. Hans Verner Larsen puts it this way: “A distinct service design may attract new customers, but it also risks putting off existing customers. So we considered it carefully before we gave the go-ahead for the idea of combining bank and café.” The challenge with the café concept was that the traditional bank design with counters and counselling areas was gone, so the customers had to get used to the idea of discussing private financial issues in an open, public space. Despite this challenge, management decided to take the chance, based on a strong belief that design pays off and a certainty that the café concept was the right idea for modernising Max Bank. And the bank’s investment in service design did pay off. The year after the implementation of café-banking, Max Bank had the best result in its 100-year history. That year, the bank was also found to have the best customer satisfaction ratings among all banks in Denmark. The café concept also earned Max Bank a place in the 2006 Innovation Cup, where they were picked as one of the most innovative companies, in the same league as some of Denmark’s most acknowledged companies. Max Bank also represented Denmark at the Retail Institute’s international retail conference as the most innovative chain in Denmark. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? Max Bank is part of a growing market with rapid development, where new competitors enter all the time. Thus, Max Bank has to continue to be innovative and improve its service design, if it is to keep the title as Denmark’s most customer-friendly bank.

“The evaluation of the experiences from Århus will form the basis for an assessment of the café concept and its future in other branches. But I can easily imagine a Max Bank in central Copenhagen, because our café concept forms the basis for good, customer-friendly service. That is why Max Bank is also going to be among the future banks in Denmark,” Hans Verner Larsen concludes.

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The Danish Design Centre has its headquarters

Danish Design Centre

on Hans Christian Andersens Boulevard in the middle

H C Andersens Boulevard 27 1553 Copenhagen V

of Copenhagen in a building, designed by professor, architect Henning Larsen. The building houses offices, exhibition halls, a professional conference centre,

Tel +45 3369 3369 Fax +45 3369 3300

a shop and a café, all run by the Danish Design Centre.

The Design Centre was established in 1978 and moved

to its present headquarters in 2000.

Text: Sanne Lund Hansen

The Danish Design Centre’s assignment is based on the Danish government’s design policy of promoting innovation and growth in Denmark and strengthening the international competitiveness of Danish businesses. The Centre is an independent institution under the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs. In addition, the Danish Design Centre handles a number of specific promotional tasks for the Danish Ministry of Culture. The Danish Design Centre’s vision is to document, promote and brand Danish design on a national and international level by:

economic effects of design in Danish industry

especially in the small and medium-sized companies

• Professionalizing the Danish design companies and

buyers of design through development of competences

• Branding Danish design nationally and internationally His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik is the patron of the Danish Design Centre. For further information please visit

Design and layout: Scandinavian Branding A/S and Morten Sørdahl Nielsen, DDC

• Increasing the knowledge about design and the

design:CASE / Maxbank  
design:CASE / Maxbank  

Three years ago, Max Bank decided to invest in service design. That proved to be a good business decision. The following year, Max Bank had...