BY BILL PRICHARD
The shared branch network offers unlimited growth potential for credit unions. Learn more about the history behind the concept, the entry of CO-OP Shared Branch into the arena and how you can leverage shared branching to power the growth of your CU.
Like a single mustard seed growing into a great tree, some business ideas can start very small and grow as large as an entire industry. The credit union industry’s shared branch network, now the third largest branch network among all financial institutions, is one such example.
Today, CO-OP Shared Branch, managed by CO-OP Financial Services of Rancho Cucamonga, California (www.co-opfs.org), connects more than 5,300 credit union branches and 1,800 self-service kiosks in all 50 states. It is a key element in the credit union industry’s initiative to extend convenient services to members wherever they may travel. In many ways, it is powering the growth of the credit union movement – its purest expression of coast-to-coast collaboration.
Shared branching grew out of necessity and its enduring value to the industry is underscored by its longevity – and continued growth. The seed was planted in the late 1960s when a handful of credit unions in the Detroit area banded together to establish the first shared branch network.
The concept was to allow a member of one independent credit union to transact business in another independent credit union as if they were in their home branch. That is still the idea – but the concept is also now at the forefront of the industry’s need to transform branches. And originally, the goal was to create a credit union network to help compete against big banks. Now, it is that, but shared branching is also helping the movement meet the challenge of the vast array of alternative payment offerings from providers well beyond traditional bank competitors.