BY MEREDITH DEEN
Credit union branches are in the midst of a significant transformation today. Faced with the need to reduce operating expenses and grow profits, credit unions are rethinking the way they attract new members, deepen relationships with existing ones, and attempt to provide the very best service possible.
Technology is another factor in this evolution. The emergence of online banking, mobile banking, smart ATMs, interactive video technology, and other innovations now make it possible for credit union members to perform common transactions and research financial products and services – without ever visiting a branch.
Not surprisingly, overall branch traffic is in decline. According to the 2015 FMSI Teller Line Study, there has been a 45 percent drop in transaction volumes since 1992. Yet despite this trend, there is still value in the branch. According to a 2016 J.D. Power study, the number of branches has declined, but they are still considered a key channel for resolving members’ problems or completing more complex transactions. While many once thought technology would eventually lead to the death of branch-based banking, experts now view branch transformation as an opportunity for credit unions to gain a new competitive edge.
The evolving landscape of credit union branch models
Most credit unions see the benefit of this transformation now, yet unfortunately, they can’t simply flip the proverbial switch and instantly convert each of their locations into the ideal “branch of the future.” Modernizing branches takes considerable time, effort, and budget, so as credit unions begin down this path, three different branch models have come into existence: