CU Branches Out

Innovative design features teller-less branches staffed with personal financial representatives.

September 26, 2011

Plans by University Federal Credit Union to build several new branches are making waves in the credit union community.

The Austin, Texas-based credit union currently uses two branch designs: some traditional brick-and-mortar facilities and others which use remote teller systems.

But the $1.3 billion asset institution will soon offer a third, more innovative branch option to its repertoire: “e-teller” branches, which will feature a new design entirely, says Sheila Wojcik, vice president of membership.

The three new branches will have no tellers, she says. Instead, they’ll have high-end ATMs and personal financial representatives (PFR) on hand to help members with more complex needs.

This new design (rendering pictured above) is an improvement in several ways, Wojcik says. Most significantly the new design is a means to improving member service. Because members can take care of their day-to-day transactions using the new ATMs, branch staff are free to work with members in a more high-end, advisory role.

“It frees up staff to do the types of solutions-based interactions that will really improve members’ lives,” says Wojcik. “Those are the type of interactions we want to foster and encourage.”

The branches’ new staffing model will also create opportunities for credit union employees. Because many tellers work part-time and they can choose to move into a different department, teller positions can be short-tenured, says Wojcik.

By becoming a PFR, staff not only gain more skills, they can also have the chance to build a long-term career with the credit union.

The new branches will have an open, uncluttered look and feel to them, Wojcik says, providing an attractive space for community groups. The local Round Rock Arts Council, for instance, will soon display art on the credit union’s walls.

There will even be a gallery opening, complete with wine and cheese.

“We’re very excited about having our Round Rock branch become a community destination,” says Wojcik.

Plus, the new branches are less expensive to build. Not only is the credit union saving some $150,000 annually on staffing costs, construction is cheaper because the branches will have the same design.

There are several things to take into account when building this type of branch, says Wojcik. The credit union must develop a comprehensive staffing model and be willing to help members become comfortable with the new design.

It also must choose its technology partners carefully, she says.

Although the branches’ design and technology have garnered the most attention, Wojcik says their real value will be the exemplary service the buildings provide.

“It’s as much, if not more, about people, processes, and the relationships with our members as the technology,” says Wojcik. “Technology is just the enabler.”

LIBBY VERTZ is an intern in CUNA’s business-to-business publishing department. Contact her at 608-231-4096.