Long-term Investment

Citizens Bank & Trust in Baton Rouge transforms a 30-year-old space into its flagship branch
Lens Workspaces Citizensbank01

Citizens Bank & Trust was established in Plaquemine in 1916. The newly remodeled Bocage branch in Baton Rouge celebrates the company’s roots while forging it’s path to the future.

Quick Look

Location:
7646 Jefferson Hwy., Baton Rouge
Number of years in business:
106
Style of building’s architecture:
Exterior is Southern vernacular architecture, and the interior is transitional.
Square footage:
6,000
Move-in date:
Reopening after remodel was July 6, 2021

CitizensBankAndTrust.com


 

In 1991, Citizens Bank & Trust opened a branch in Baton Rouge on Jefferson Highway, that, until recently hadn’t changed much. Last year, however, the branch received a makeover, transforming it into a flagship branch for the company. For the transformation, the company worked with Ritter Maher Architects.

“It was a collaborative effort with [interior designer] Samantha Bastion of Ritter Maher taking the lead,” said Citizens Bank & Trust Vice President Ryan Elliott. Included in the collaboration was AOS Interior Environments, who handled the furnishings, and art and accessories from Rogers & McDaniel. Recently, Elliott and Bastion shared details about the striking renovation.

Biz New Orleans: What were your (or the design team’s) goals for the design and why?
Ryan Elliott: We felt a facelift was well overdue. Our desire was to create a flagship branch for the Citizens Bank & Trust brand in the Baton Rouge market and create more usable space so we could house more staff at this location. Currently, we have six branch staff members downstairs and five lenders upstairs. We also have a state-of-the-art conference room to hold meetings, trainings and occasional board meetings.

What was the biggest design challenge and how was it overcome?
Samantha Bastion: The biggest design challenge we encountered was completely reworking the program of the existing space to engage the customer and provide more offices and meeting spaces.
Elliott: As a busy branch location, we also struggled with how to operate our branch while construction was taking place. We originally planned to operate at the same site while construction was simultaneously taking place around us, but we quickly realized this would be a logistical nightmare and possible safety hazard. Fortunately, we were able to rent a former bank location within a stone’s throw from our permanent branch, which freed up the contractors to work in full force on the project site.

What is the standout feature of the design?
Elliott: There are so many design features that I like about this location, but my favorite is the glass atrium on the second floor that overlooks the branch lobby, which includes several attractive design features, such as a retro Citizens Bank & Trust logo and the large chandelier.
Bastion:

Citizens Bank is customer-focused and they wanted the interiors to reflect that. The coffee bar, with its inviting color palette and warm tones, encourages the client to come relax for just a moment and have a cup of coffee while they recharge from our fast-paced world.

Another feature I want to point out is the commissioned artwork from Lauren Barksdale Hill. This triptych canvas depicts the Port Allen Locks, which is a nod to the original branch in Port Allen. It is important to reflect on where we began so we can appreciate how far we have come.

How would you describe your company and its core clientele?
Elliott: Our core clientele are the citizens of Iberville, East Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes who understand and appreciate the greatest advantage a community bank has to offer — personal service.

How do you offer something different or set yourselves apart from similar businesses in South Louisiana?
Elliott: I believe it is a common misconception that banks have a lot of money to spend. In reality banks operate on tight margins, and we all prioritize where we spend money. For our bank, we believe it is important to provide an atmosphere that evokes the feeling of professionalism, confidence and strength. We also want to create work environments that are enjoyable for the guest and employees alike, along with creating efficient workspaces. For these reasons, we believe it is important to invest in our bank facilities, and our Bocage branch is our latest one.

How do you promote a positive work atmosphere?
Elliott: Our bank has been around for 106 years, and we have some of the longest-tenured employees you will find anywhere. This is a testament to our culture, which was created long before my arrival and the arrival of the management team. We are simply the torch bearers of what has been passed down to us, and we continue to make this a bank centered around its employees so they can provide exceptional customer service today and for the years to come.

What are your biggest business challenges?
Elliott: This a strange time to be alive. There are so many things that are affecting our personal and work environments. Banks are flush with cash/liquidity at this moment and are looking for ways to deploy this money, good loans being the preferred method. Because we all have excess liquidity, competition is very tight, which keeps the rates down. With talk that the Federal Reserve will soon start raising rates, combined with the excess liquidity that most banks are experiencing, we could see where loan rates for good-quality commercial loans may lag (behind) the rate increases the Fed may make. We will just have to wait and see how this all shakes out, but this could be a challenge in the months to come.

What goals are you looking to meet in the next 12 months?
Elliott: The last two years were exceptional ones for our bank. This success was largely in part due to our participation in the PPP loan program. We were able to impact over 500 small business customers during the height of the pandemic, which was hard work, but very gratifying. Now that PPP is in the rearview mirror, we are planning for a great year, albeit not like 2020 and 2021.