Corporate “innovation labs” aren’t an unfamiliar concept in Philly. But now, banks are getting into the trend, too.
TD Bank opened its first so-called innovation lab, called TD Workshop, last month at its 3735 Walnut St. location. The workshop sits within an existing banking hub that will now also be used to test new concepts for the company.
According to Colleen Duke, the innovation lab manager who oversees the TD Workshop, this University City location required renovations back in 2019. The team knew they wanted it to remain an operating store, but to put some excess space to creative use.
She described the workshop as “part brainstorm corner, part research center, part community center,” with plans to host financial literacy classes and networking events for neighbors.
The storefront is staffed as usual, but the innovation lab side of it will be used as a space for TD employees to work together in person and to test new ideas and initiatives, Duke said.
With this model, the idea is that employees can get direct feedback from customers about new technology or products.
An example of some of the new ideas and technology they will be testing in the space is a usability study about the company’s current mobile app and online banking experience.
“We have rooms in the back of house, the focus and the observe room, which is designed for those research studies,” Duke said of the TD Workshop. For instance, recruited panelists might come in to test TD’s mobile app, “and then we’ve got observers as well as the product owners sitting on the opposite side of that one-way glass and listening to people’s feedback on that experience. That’s coming in the next couple of weeks.” TD also plans to test different self-service equipment alongside the space’s ATMs.
As far as community involvement goes, TD recently sponsored jazz festival hosted by the West Philadelphia-based nonprofit People’s Emergency Center and plans to hold financial education classes for its members. The lab manager said the hub wants to partner with the local universities in some way in the future, too.
Duke said TD Bank has been incorporating technical “innovation” into its services, for example with a virtual queue system and curbside pickup at the height of the pandemic. This new workshop is just the latest iteration.
“We want to make sure that we’re controlling the risk, but we’re still moving forward and adapting to customers’ needs and wants,” she said. “TD workshop and all of its features and the way that it was designed is really intended to help accelerate on those innovations and look to improve upon the current store experience, as well as across our bank within our products and services.”Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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