Have you ever wondered why the credit union has branches where we do? Or maybe more importantly, why we don’t have a branch where you think we should?
Well, the philosophy of branch design and placement has changed a lot over the years. In the past, financial institutions were building ginormous branches on every corner. Everywhere you looked, there were big, beautiful buildings with a VERY traditional feel. (Think library or museum and you get the picture!) There was a time and place for this type of branch. That was in the “old days,” as my kids refer to them...you know, when I had to walk 10 miles to school, uphill, in the
snow, and in my bare feet. HAHA
New branches are definitely smaller. In the “old days,” people would come to a branch every Thursday afternoon with their paychecks in hand. Direct deposit has changed that routine for most. And while less foot traffic means fewer employees at a branch, there’s still a need to be available to serve members when they have questions, concerns or are starting a new endeavor. (Marriage, children, a new business…you know, those major life changing events.)
While we were transitioning towards this new branch prototype a couple of years ago, the pandemic really made us stop and take a good hard look at how our members want to be served. We regularly ask our members for feedback…and we are definitely listening! For example, some of our branches need an update, so this year, we are looking at doing a major transformation at two locations to make them better resources.
We are also constantly evaluating our entire branch network and structure, and will be scheduling additional updates over the next few years. Many of our branches now have what we call Universal Employees. They can run your transaction, open an account for you, talk with you about the best tools to help you get the most from your money, or work with you on a loan. Some of our branches have traditional staffing models with Tellers, MSRs, Mortgage Lenders and Branch Managers. It just depends on the local memberships needs and wants.
But let’s get back to the original question, “Why are branches located where they are?” Honestly, there is a lot of data mining that goes into that decision. We have firms do periodic demographic studies of our membership to identify whether we have branches in the right spots. When we get this information, we review it and have a deep discussion about whether we have any gap areas or potentially need to make a move. We look at a lot of things, including but not limited to:
- The population of the area being considered
- The competition that already services the area
- The types of products and services that interest the population in that area
- The cost of a branch, including the land, building, and of course, staffing with wonderful employees
And of course, we keep track of where we hear our members would like to have a branch location. We DO hear you and make sure we keep that info in the forefront when reviewing this information. (So, if you haven’t shared your thoughts, don’t forget to write!)
Sometimes, this also means making a few rough calls. Recently we decided to not reopen our grocery locations. It was definitely convenient to stop for a transaction and get groceries at the same place. However, while we tried to encourage members to fully use the locations, promoting other services like lending to help the grocery branches grow, it didn’t happen.
Since we are a financial cooperative, we have to look at branch decisions that benefit our whole membership. The grocery locations had become transaction centers, where people were mostly cashing checks or making quick withdrawals, so other members who were using our services at other branches, were actually subsidizing these locations. That just didn’t make sense for the long haul.
Our #1 goal for our branch network is to have the right branch in the right place staffed with the right people (you know, the awesome kind who caringly look for ways to help our members make the most of their money). We know that we have a big responsibility to safeguard your money wisely and we want to be more of a resource rather than just to process basic transactions. That responsibility requires us to balance giving each individual member the access they want, both electronically
and in person, with the need to provide the greatest benefit to ALL members. Which is why we will always keep encouraging you to reach out to us and share your thoughts! The more feedback we have, the more we can see the whole picture and work to maintain the most convenient branch network for our membership.