Defining Your Bank’s Personality with the Big Five

When we meet someone new, their appearance, voice, and behavior quickly form our first impressions. As we interact more with that person, their traits and flaws become clearer.

So, if your bank was a person, who would it be?

This anthropomorphic question can help clarify your brand identity. It can also help your customers relate to you in a more human way. Because it is in our nature, humanizing non-human entities is common (i.e. your dog might look like he is smiling, or a flower might seem friendly). Many consumers may also prefer organizations that seem more human, and are looking for brands that use authentic, genuine, and honest communication.

Although their validity is often debated, personality theories such as Myers-Briggs and the Big Five provide frameworks to analyze different traits. The Big Five theory identifies five main characteristics on which people may differ, including: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Being at the low or high end of the spectrum on each trait is not necessarily good or bad, since there are positives and negatives to each orientation. This theory can provide a starting point to assess or build your brand’s identity.

Your Bank’s Personality According to the Big Five Theory

Openness to Experience

A bank that is high on the “openness to experience” trait is willing to innovate and take risks. It is constantly looking for new ways to improve and is curious about drawing inspirations globally and from other industries. Creative thinking and imagination are highly valued. Its design likely includes interesting, eclectic, and novel features and it has an open feel. The latest technology is also integrated into the brand experience.

A bank that is low on “openness to experience” is more traditional and risk-averse. Security is very important, and things that have worked in the past are trusted the most. This type of institution is wary of change and reluctant to embrace new methods. Its design is likely more traditional as well to reflect its values, with a more authoritative feel and older architecture.


A bank that is highly conscientious is organized and rarely makes mistakes. Every project is on-schedule and the corporate culture is goal-oriented. Policies are followed strictly and information is communicated clearly. Its design is structured and easy to navigate, and the brand experience is efficient and straightforward but also feels less relaxed.

A bank that is low on conscientiousness is more concerned with being flexible and lenient, with a more relaxed and casual attitude. A downside to this trait is that more mistakes and inconsistencies may occur. Branch design for this type of bank is more discovery-based, with comfortable seating and a less planned, more organic feel.


A bank that is high on the extroversion trait has an energetic, outgoing personality and frequently accepts invitations to be involved in community initiatives and causes. It often partners with other businesses and offers social events for its customers and employees. Its design includes open social space where community members and employees can have casual conversations and the space has interactive and vibrant features.

A bank with low extroversion may be more reserved, choosing to first think deeply about which causes it supports. When it comes to extra initiatives, this type of bank prefers to use its internal team or one or two trusted allies rather than seek many external partners. Its branches are calm, contemplative, and quiet spaces with separate rooms to have private meetings with thoughtful financial advisors.


A bank that is highly agreeable is very friendly and has a cooperative, “customer is always right” attitude. Conflict is to be avoided and employees are quick to help resolve any complaint that a customer may have. Branch design is very approachable, inclusive, and welcoming.

A bank that is less agreeable is more likely to firmly stick to their policies and be highly competitive with other financial institutions. They also may have a more exclusive mindset where only a specific type of customer is welcomed. This type of financial institution is confident in their identity and does not let others compromise it. Branch design is more formal and classic.


Neuroticism involves instability and the tendency towards worry, anxiety, stress, and anger. While these emotions are often considered negative, they can also make for a more dynamic, emotive, and unfiltered personality.

A bank that is highly neurotic is always looking for competitive threats and is concerned with the well-being of its customers. It connects and communicates with its customers emotionally and relates to their worries and everyday stressors. Branch design considers customer needs and may be more colorful.

A bank that is low on neuroticism is more stable and laid-back. Communication has a more rational angle, and branch design is likely to have a more neutral feel.

Which characteristics does you financial institution have? All of these traits combine to give an individual – or a bank – a unique and powerful identity. With a strong identity and clear personality traits, a brand will be more likely to stand out and be noticed in a competitive market.