Above: Community Choice CU's new member centers help build stronger member relationships.
Community Choice Credit Union in Farmington Hills, Mich., is transforming its branches from traditional outlets into member centers, where an open-concept design allows the credit union to focus on developing relationship with members.
Three of the $700 million asset credit union’s branches have undergone the transformation.
Alan Bergstrom, Community Choice’s chief marketing officer, spoke with Credit Union Magazine about the transformation and what it means for the credit union and its members.
CU Mag: What’s driving the move toward a “member center” concept?
Bergstrom: The number of branch transactions have steadily declined over the last three or four years, with members opting to use e-banking, mobile banking, and ATMs. Instead, members are visiting us for advice and consultation.
Our member center concept serves this change in member behavior by providing a place where members feel comfortable to ask for advice and information about products, services, and financial solutions.
CU Mag: Given these changes, how do your branches fit into your service delivery strategy?
Bergstrom: We still need member centers, as many prefer a human, “personal” approach to doing business with us. Machines and technology can only do so much.
One-to-one interaction and service is a key differentiator for us as a credit union, especially when providing product and financial advice. Member centers are an important part of the mix.
CU Mag: How are these member centers different from what members are used to seeing at a traditional branch?
Bergstrom: The member center concept feels more like a coffee shop/gathering place than a bank. It’s a place to relax, discuss, learn, and advise.
We will still handle transactions, however; the focus is on relationship-building/strengthening. We want to be the community’s credit union—a resource for financial advice and information.
CU Mag: What new branch tools and technologies do you use to support this new concept?
Bergstrom: Drive-up ATMs, mobile banking with remote deposit, fingerprint authentication and auto-balance check, EMV cards, instant issuing of cards in the member center, online banking, online bill pay, Money Desktop, Apple Pay, GetBigReward$, online account enrollment, in-house contact center, and touch screen video screens.
We are also planning to move from fixed screens at each member support station to wireless tablets with member signature capture capabilities.
CU Mag: What operational and other challenges does this new approach present?
Bergstrom: This approach requires team members that have good consultative and relationship skills.
Our personal advisors are more than tellers—they have the tools and knowledge to help members maximize their financial well-being—accessing better interest rates on loan products, better savings rates with a number of interest-earning deposit products, investment instruments—all while supporting the local community to become a better place to live and work.
It also relies on increased use and positive flow of interactions using new devices. Having a good grasp on technology has become more important when recruiting new team members. We have built this trait into the hiring protocol.
Enhanced member security—making sure members and team members feel safe and comfortable in the new environment—is a top priority. We have increased and improved our training program to support safe and empathetic transactions.
CU Mag: Is there any advice you’d offer credit unions about making this approach work?
Bergstrom: Credit unions must invest to keep up with the changing marketplace and member needs and preferences. It shouldn’t be about trying to be more like banks, but about leveraging our unique differences that make us special and a better option than banks.
We will still need the products and services that allow members to conduct their financial affairs on their time and in their way—those are table stakes. It’s what we do differently that will matter to current and potential members.