The Shared Branching Story Is Too Often Untold

In my opinion, one of the great differentiators for credit unions is access. On the surface, most folks in our communities probably would not agree with this. After all, doesn't a person have to belong to something or work somewhere "special" to be a part of a credit union? Whether your shop has a community charter or is SEG-based, access is still something that any credit union can embrace and promote.

The other day, my younger brother e-mailed me asking me to recommend a Houston-based credit union where his son and future daughter-in-law can join when they move there. I told him that 3Rivers FCU has locations in Houston. "No, you don't. You're here in Fort Wayne, Ind.," he replied. I explained the shared branching network as well as the ATM networks we participate in (CU24, Alliance One, CO-OP). Funny thing, my nephew already banks with another local credit union that participates in some/all of these networks-but my brother's family was unaware of this. I had no problem in promoting what we could do for them.

I have been told that some credit union executives are becoming wary of shared branching. With stiffer competition, they say, they cannot afford to lose members to another credit union (even though there are rules to "prevent" this). I don't worry about this. If our service, products and convenience are taking care of our members' needs, then we can safely promote this type of access with no fear.

However, I have been reading that consumers nationwide want more and more convenience and simplicity. If you participate in shared branching, you can say with pride that you have locations all over the country. This is incredible access. Access is not about us-it's about our members.

If you worry about losing members to another credit union and want to pull out of participation networks, perhaps you are focusing on the wrong thing. Members are seeking convenience and easy access to their accounts. You can attempt to corral them in your shop in an attempt to protect your business, but the herd will break free if they find access they really want elsewhere.

Embrace it. Promote it. My credit union's debit card. My credit union's online account access. My credit union's mobile banking. Shared branching and ATM networks. It's all about location, location, location. It's about our membership.

Jim Johnson, VP-Member Services

3 Rivers FCU, Ft. Wayne, Ind.