The Evolution of CU Branches

Physical branches won’t disappear, but they’ll have to evolve to remain relevant.

October 13, 2010

Ten years from now, many branches will look more like community centers than financial centers.

Branches of the future will have greeters, cash recyclers, fewer tellers, self-service kiosks, free Wi-Fi, and coffee bars, says Michael Pratt, chief marketing officer for Panini, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Strategic Services alliance provider. Panini launched a “branch of the future” international design initiative in 2008.

While these multitasking features already exist in some branches, their adoption will accelerate in the decade ahead, he predicts.

The change is fueled by a dramatic shift in consumer preferences. For the first time, most consumers prefer to conduct financial transactions online, according to a 2009 survey by the American Bankers Association.

This online preference isn’t exclusive to younger consumers. Online banking is now the preferred banking method for all banking consumers under age 55.

Does this mean the branch of the future will be entirely virtual? Or that the number of staff employed by financial institutions will drop dramatically? Or that the number of branches will decline?

Probably not, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which predicts employment of tellers will grow about 6% from 2008-2018, while employment of financial service representatives will grow 9% during the same time period.

Consumer preferences are expected to accelerate the demand for sales and service skills among staff. If members do want a financial service from a branch, it probably will be a relatively complex one requiring face-to-face interaction.

“We see a dramatic shift in the role of the personnel involved in the typical branch,” says Pratt. “The role of the branch is shifting from transaction processing to more sales and service, cross-selling, and account and loan origination. Branches are becoming smaller and more embedded in their communities.”

To attract consumers, financial institutions are increasingly opening new branch offices in a variety of locations, such as grocery stores and small retail locations, and keeping their branches open longer during the day and on weekends, according to BLS. Both trends will mean increased demand for 24/7 staffing and part-time workers.

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