In the UK, the re-design of bank and building society branches is currently in vogue. Many financial institutions are re-evaluating the role of their branches as a distribution channel and beginning to consider themselves as financial retailers with outlets akin to shops that are open and welcoming. Similar changes can also be seen across Europe as many banks remove the heavy glass barriers between customers and staff and place greater emphasis on targeting customer segments. This paper examines the factors propelling these changes. It points out that the analogy between retail outlets and bank branches has limitations. There are fundamental differences between the two types of outlet which make the task of re-designing bank branches more challenging. The paper also describes attempts by various banks and building societies to incorporate new corporate values and banking concepts into the changes in design. The role of market research in evaluating these changes is the focus of the paper; examples from research conducted on behalf of the National Westminster Bank and the National & Provincial Building Society are discussed in terms of the merits and pitfalls associated with their different approaches - testing prototype branches versus live branches. The authors conclude with statements about the relative importance of design in the mix of factors that makes a branch successful and highlight the role of staff in translating elements of this mix (being more welcoming, friendly, sale orientated) into practice.