I am part of a cross-departmental team that was challenged to come up with a plan to rapidly expand our branch network while keeping costs low and addressing the changing habits of consumers by putting an added focus on technology and innovation. Sounds simple enough, right? This really is a difficult task that many in the credit union industry are currently facing or will inevitably face in the near future.
The concept we have come up with has been dubbed the ‘Express Branch’. There are numerous benefits to taking this approach, the most important of which include the speed in which we can have these locations up and running for our members and the overall cost savings.
Based on data that showed us that the majority (nearly 80%) of account transactions were already being completed through our remote channels, we decided to introduce a ‘tellerless’ branch. Members will still be able to complete all requested transactions by utilizing Automated Teller Machines (ATM) or Interactive Teller Machines (ITM). The ITM is new technology we plan to introduce with this concept, and it will put our members ‘face-to-face’ with centrally located tellers right on our machines. This ‘tellerless’ approach allowed us to reduce the staffing needs while enabling the employees we will have to focus on further developing member relationships, closely managing the location’s book of business and educating members on all channels available.
The amount of space needed for these new branches has been greatly reduced with no teller lines, so the decision was made to seek strip center lease spaces in areas strong in Select Employee Group (SEG) locations or member concentration. One team member jokes that this is our ‘branch in a box’ because it will allow us to easily box the whole thing up and move to a new location if the need ever comes up.
We tackled the rapid expansion with low costs, so it was time to begin looking at the member experience at these new locations.
Along with the elimination of teller lines, we also eliminated greeter stations thus allowing employees to interact with every member coming in. Employees will be encouraged to assist members with the use of the new technology and service options at this location regardless of the service requested. This high level of interaction will allow employees to “create lifelong friendships and financial partnerships with each member” which is a strategy of our branch network.
Members coming in to these locations will have the freedom to choose how to complete their requests by choosing from Self-, Assisted- or Full-Service which goes hand in hand with our tagline ‘Membership Equals Freedom’.
Self – Member completes at ATM, ITM, or PC station.
Assisted – Member completes at ATM, ITM, PC station, or dialogue tower with employee assistance.
Full – Completed by a credit union employee.
Members choosing self-service will have access to ATMs or ITMs as well as PC stations where they can access their accounts online, apply for loans, open accounts, and even print statements or check copies. Assisted-service can take place anywhere, but we plan to have dialogue towers with swivel monitors in the branch where employees can help with quicker requests or guide members through our various online channels. Full-service requests will likely come from our more traditional members or from members with more in-depth requests, and we will have space dedicated to private offices for those interactions.
Having all services available to our members at these branches is important, so we plan to introduce video-to-video technology. We hope to equip all offices with that feature so our members can meet with departments housed elsewhere. There will also be a casual conference room at these branches that members can use for video-to-video or meetings in person. Rather than submitting a referral to specialized departments such as mortgage or commercial services for a call at a later time, video-to-video will enable members to sit in an office, see a representative and begin addressing their needs immediately.
This ‘Express Branch’ concept will allow us to quickly expand our branch network while greatly managing our expenses. In addition, it will introduce new technology and provide member education on the various service channels available to them. This concept should appeal to members since they will have access to all services with multiple service options. This ‘Express Branch’ will be one more tool to show our members that membership really does equal freedom.
Our first ‘Express Branch’ is slated open the last quarter of 2013.