A recent CO-OP Financial Services white paper is debunking myths about Credit Union Shared Branching. Here is an exert from the white paper that address the second misconception: Members Do NOt Receive the Same Levels of Service at Shared Branching Locations. Hear what fellow Missouri credit union representative Stan Moeckli has to say about the issue.
Misconception Two: Members Do Not Receive the Same Levels of Service at Shared Branching Locations
Branches serve a critical role as a conduit to building relationships with members. Shared branches stand-in for those credit unions limited in reach by geography. Some credit unions fear that the shared branching network does not provide the same level of service as the originating credit union. However, shared branching is unique compared to other financial institutions and speaks to the camaraderie within the credit union industry.
“By the mere existence of shared branching, credit unions demonstrate their cooperative nature and higher interest in promoting our movement for the better good of our members and communities,” said Stan Moeckli, President and CEO of the St. Louis, Missouri-based Electro Savings Credit Union. “There isn’t another industry that I can think of where you promote to your own members to go use the brick-and-mortar facility of another company that offers similar products and services to your own.”
So while a member is being served by another credit union, the member receives the same attention and courtesy afforded to them in their home branch. This simpatico approach builds member trust and loyalty. To ensure consistency of service, shared branching locations are evaluated each year by a Secret Shopper Program, which evaluates participants on items such as signage, teller interaction, adherence to policies and procedures and branch appearance. From January to September 2012, evaluated locations scored an average 82 out of 100 points, proving strong performance levels. “Within Missouri’s shared branching network, MCUA provides an excellent oversight with their Secret Shopper Program,” said Moeckli. “This ensures that members are not being sold on another credit union’s products while in a shared branching location.”
With 18,020 members, 61 employees, four branches and $146 million in assets, Electro Savings Credit Union joined the shared branching network in 2000. Moeckli explained that the approach was twofold. “We looked at the acquiring side and the issuer side. As an issuer, it is a way to offer our own members more branch locations without incurring the capital expense of building and staffing more locations,” he said. “As an acquirer, it is a source of non-interest income to offset the cost of our members using other credit unions’ shared branching locations, plus additional income if our locations could pull in more transactions than our own members used.”
There were issues to address such as training staff on transaction policies that adhere to the guidelines of a shared branching network, as well as ensuring that the data processing system is compatible. “The issuer and acquirer are a good match,” said Moeckli. “With our members going to other locations we had over capacity in our branches, but we need that extra capacity for the acquirer side, such as other credit union members coming to our branches.”
In 2011, Pennsylvania Credit Union Service Centers hosted a “Share It and Win” campaign to promote shared branching to members. Members were asked to enter respective entries as to how shared branching helped them at a designated website.
The third winner selected was referred to as “Denali,” a member of American Heritage Federal Credit Union. “When I moved from Philadelphia to Maryland, I did not want to move my account with me, thinking that in this computer age, there is no need for a brick-and-mortar branch. This was going just fine until I needed to deposit one check urgently,” Denali continued. “I called my credit union and they told me that I can do that at a shared branch—just a quarter mile away from where I was at that moment. From then on, I have my Philadelphia credit union everywhere around me—convenient, fast and really easy!”
The experiences recounted by Electro Savings Credit Union and American Heritage Federal Credit Union underscore that the shared branching model promotes excellent service offerings and supports relationship building regardless of member status (i.e., guest or traditional).
While the bottom line must be considered when undertaking a shared branching initiative, the main goal is retaining existing members and successfully serving visiting members. “On the acquiring side, we have many other credit union members complete our comment cards set out in our branches for our own members. They tell us that our staff has provided them the same level, even sometimes better of service that they receive at their own credit union,” said Moeckli. “On the issuer side, our own members tell us in our internal surveys that they appreciate the convenience of being able to access their accounts.”
Click here to read the entire white paper.
Click here to learn more about Shared Branching.