Credit Unions Are Paving the Way for an Evolved Branch Model

It’s a fact that the one-size-fits-all approach used by some financial institutions doesn’t generally benefit or effectively serve culturally, geographically, and economically diverse populations or small communities. That’s why credit unions were first created, and it’s why they still exist: To provide value to their members by offering products and services tailored to their specific and individual needs.

In the age of digital financial services, those needs haven’t changed, but delivery methods continue to evolve. As the pandemic increased consumers’ demand for mobile banking, moving away from physical branches was a logical step for many financial institutions, and the statistics prove that, generally, consumers embraced this move.

According to a recent regulatory report by John Trull, NWCUA VP of Regulatory Advocacy, “the two largest banks in Idaho, Wells Fargo and US Bank, who combined have 25% of the deposit market share, closed 25 Idaho branches between June of 2020 and June of 2021. That is 16% of their total branches in the State, but they still maintained their deposit market share year over year.”

Oregon and Washington paint a similar picture, with US Bank, Wells Fargo, and Chase either increasing or maintaining their year-over-year deposit share despite an 8-18% branch reduction.

Conversely, credit unions across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington continue to increase their branch presence, (growing branches by 2.5%, 9.5%, and 6%, respectively, between June 2020 and June 2021) as they continually assess and act on membership needs.

Even with the growing popularity of digital banking, credit unions remain keenly aware that a welcoming and convenient branch presence provides the close, personal touch many members, especially those in rural and underserved areas, appreciate and expect.

Still, it’s no secret that even the most technology-resistant consumers are starting to come around to the idea of using virtual tools to manage their finances. Credit unions know this. They’re keeping pace with technological advances and the newer branches reflect that, boasting lighter and brighter spaces with open floorplans and a variety of cutting-edge tools and solutions, such as Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs), video banking, and other convenient ways to complete transactions.

Whether serving members in person or online, credit unions are teaming up with some of the industry’s best business partners to make each member interaction a positive one.

“Something that sets credit unions apart is that the financial well-being of members is at the heart of business decisions, not profit,” said Cameron Smith, VP of Strategic Partnerships and Resources at NWCUA. “When credit unions implement emerging technologies in today’s marketplace, it’s all about finding a way to serve members better, faster, and more efficiently, because they know that’s what today’s on-the-go consumers need.”

For example, partners like CRMNext give credit unions a 360-degree view of all member activity so they can anticipate upcoming needs and offer the most appropriate services at just the right time. Omni-channel communications platforms, such as Eltropy and Glia, include video banking, text messaging, cobrowsing, secure chat, and chatbot capabilities. This one-stop-shop approach enables credit union teams to operate at peak efficiency while personalizing service for each member.

The modernization of financial services comes with a greater need for security. Managing member data is crucial and running a credit union without an automation strategy is like leaving the front door of the branch unlocked. Strategic Link partner Think|Stack offers cloud and cybersecurity to optimize enterprise technology systems. Cloud automation can increase productivity by ensuring consistency, analyzing data, decreasing human error, and integrating enterprise-wide activities, freeing up internal resources and on-premises systems to focus on more strategic efforts.

Dolphin Debit helps credit unions manage their ATM and ITM fleets with minimal fuss, shrinking operational costs and giving staff more time to focus on other tasks, like serving members. Beyond the branch, digital solution providers, such as Harland Clarke, a Vericast company, help credit unions augment their call centers, which continues to be a huge operational focus across the Northwest.

In the end, whether they’re closing branches to meet the demand for digital services or opening branches to increase connection touchpoints in their communities, it’s clear credit unions are doing something right: meeting members where they are – and where they want to be.





Posted in CU Difference.