America's Credit Union Conference
ACUC Special Report

CU Branches Evolve to Meet Members' Needs

Technology, consumer power, changing demographics, and lower profit margins prompt alterations.

July 19, 2013

U.S. credit unions are changing the design and function of credit union branches to meet members' evolving needs—moves aimed at driving efficiencies, mitigating risks, enhancing member experience, and increasing sales, a panel of experts told America's Credit Union Conference attendees Tuesday,

Raja Bose, senior director of consumer transaction services at Diebold and the moderator for the CUNA Mutual Group Discovery breakout session "Branches of the 'Future' are Here Today," cited five factors driving change in the credit union marketplace:

Exponential change in technology, with consumers rapidly adopting new technology and expecting more from credit unions;
The rise of consumer power, with empowered consumers driven by social media;
Transformational technology;
Changing demographics; and
The new normal—lower profits for financial institutions due to the rise of retail financial services.

“Consumers want to feel like they are in control, and they don’t feel they are getting this today,” Bose said.

Four credit unions discussed changes they’ve made to branches to elevate staff efficiency, reduce costs and improve member service:

Coastal Federal CU in Raleigh, N.C., implemented personal teller machines (PTMs), a video-based technology that performs all the duties of a traditional teller—dispense cash, create check images, and answer questions, said Willard Ross, Coastal Federal's senior vice president and chief retail officer. This is not self-service, but personalized service provided by staff at an offsite call center. The benefits include low-cost extended hours of operation, consistently faster and better service (the average wait time is 20 to 30 seconds), and lower teller turnover in a safer, more focused, better managed work environment.

Generations FCU in San Antonio, Texas, moved to in-store branches and transitioned its staffing model to be more nimble and cross-functional because fewer employees are stuck in separated employment silos, said Bonnie Garcia, Generations Federal's assistant vice president of business development. “Tellers can now do everything from A to Z,” she said, because there are fewer employees and a smaller footprint at the in-store branches.

Five County CU in Bath, Maine, has eight branches—including five in-store locations, one traditional branch, and two full-service “video branches” that feature PTMs and “smart offices,” said Michael Foley, Five County vice president of sales and business development. The smart offices have the equipment and capability (such as sharing computer screens) to help members go online and set up services such as online bill pay. Five County also has a full-service call center staffed with 18 employees.

Pennsylvania State Employees CU (PSECU) in Harrisburg, Pa., implemented e-centers on 12 college campuses in the state that serves a combined 400,000 students, said Greg Smith, PSECU President/CEO. One manager and student intern staff each e-center, a 200- to 300-square-foot space. PSECU focuses on college students to sustain lending operations and take advantage of the marketing “sweet spot” they're in. The impact of major life events ahead of them equates to credit needs, Smith said.

Diebold is a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.

Follow the links to read more ACUC coverage from News Now and Credit Union Magazine.