CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (8/14/15)--After two years of declines, the number of credit union branches nationwide has climbed for the second straight year, according to financial information firm SNL Financial.
On net, the movement gained 27 branches as of July 30, SNL analysis found--that after losing 241 net branches in 2012 and 2013 combined.
Stacy Fillmore, vice president of national sales and service for United FCU, St. Joseph, Mich., said that her credit union has added six branches this year, largely to meet the needs of a growing membership.
Further, taking advantage of opportunities to move into existing shopping centers that already experience high levels of foot traffic also has helped drive growth, she said.
“We want to be competitive and convenient,” Fillmore said. “Of course, we’re always watching the industry and our competitors, but more than anything we depend on our own research.”
Perhaps another driver of branch growth in the credit union movement, compared with their banking counterparts, is that credit unions often use branches to increase brand awareness, according to Ancin Cooley, principal with Synergy Bank Consulting Inc.
Cooley went even further to say that financial institutions that are trimming branches are missing out on the advantages of maintaining a physical presence.
“I deal with Apple primarily through my phone for small stuff like buying new music or paying for subscriptions,” Cooley said. “However, when I need something fixed or I need to make a big purchase, I go to the store.”
Community development credit unions (CDCUs), meanwhile, also tend to operate best with a physical presence, said Pablo DeFilippi, vice president of membership and business development for the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.
CDCUs are often more “high touch” than big banks, he added.
“CDCUs are exploring innovative strategies to expand their presence in [low-to-moderate income] markets, such as partnering with community-based organizations to share space and provide access to their clients on site,” DeFilippi said. “Some are also working with local governments to embed their services in social service hubs.”