Like holiday shoppers in need of fresh ideas, banks once again are looking at retail stores for inspiration.

This time the goal is not to learn how retailers sell, a quest that had led banks — back in the days when they were singularly focused on pushing products — to hire consumer goods executives for their selling skills and to bring in high-end retail design firms to revamp branches. Given the new regulatory environment and its impact on profitability, banks are more interested in the all-important customer relationship than in selling for selling's sake.

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