BY SCOT VACKAR
Declining transactions have many credit unions contemplating the closure of branches. But that decision doesn’t have to be an either-or one. Uncover ways to transform your CU’s branches into centers that not only serve members but also generate sales.
If your branch offices are like many of the clients we at Lending Solutions Consulting, Inc. work with, you have been experiencing a decline in transaction volumes over the past few years. Why is this critical? It ultimately drives up your average cost per transaction and focuses pressure on the profitability of that particular branch. Should you keep these type of branches open or consider closing them? This article will discuss strategies on how to avoid having to ask yourself this question by turning your branches into both sales and service centers.
According to a study by ORC International, even as consumer usage of mobile banking increases, 88 percent of consumers feel they still need a physical branch location to go to for their banking needs. Even with new technology such as video kiosks, the need for personal contact appears to prevail. Developing strategies to enhance profitability in these branches will become the key to continue providing that personal touch and to maintaining profitability for shareholders.
Our company philosophy at Lending Solutions Consulting, Inc. is that “everything follows loans.” Loans are the most sustainable and lucrative form of ongoing revenue. At the branch level, we believe wholeheartedly that “it’s all about relationships.” The goal should be to turn a new member into a lifelong member. Opening an account with a nominal share balance and no draft, credit card or loan has no value for that new member or the credit union. The question is how do you accomplish the lifelong member objective? The answer is centered on the strength of the interview and the skill of your branch employees to actively, not passively, listen. When this is accomplished, sales become far more natural.
I hear from multiple credit unions that they want to avoid being pushy or annoying. Everyone has experienced such unwanted pressure multiple times and when given the chance wants to ensure they themselves are not that person. I would argue that not selling, telling or informing your members is far worse. In fact, it’s a disservice to your members. Your products and services save your members two things that we all want and never get enough of:
• More Money in their pocket by educating them on FICO scores and how to ultimately pay less interest on their loans
• PEACE of Mind that their family and finances are financially secure Your branch employees need to view themselves as financial experts. They are solution driven and truly believe and endorse that there is, in fact, always a solution.
My experience with working at credit union branches is that the problem often starts the minute a new or existing member walks in the door. Today, many branch offices are structured as sales versus service. The service group is comprised of tellers and member service representatives and the sales group is comprised of loan officers or financial service associates. I believe the responsibilities need to be blended, where sales and service represent a unified approach working for the better good of the branch. Every time a member or a prospective member visits the branch, enhancing the relationship and providing financial solutions must be the objective.