DOWNEY, Calif. — Financial Partners Credit Union says its "smart" branch in nearby Orange, Calif., is working so well, it plans to open two more just like it.

Nader Moghaddam, CEO of the $822 million credit union, said that opening a paperless branch was part of a revamp to FPCU's sales and service culture, and a key part of its delivery strategy. The cost of the smart branch is one-third of a traditional branch - $300,000 versus $1,000,000, including the ATM and all of the new equipment. All cash transactions are done at the ATM, with employees using wireless devices to assist members.

The layout is described as "very sleek" thanks to an absence of bandit barriers, and the modifications mean the branch operates with two employees instead of five.

"The branch is doing great," Moghaddam said, noting it opened in late April and has 966 members and more than $5 million in loans. "We are very happy with how the branch has performed so far."

What makes management "even happier," he continued, is the branch's Net Promoter Score has been running consistently at 83.1%. Moghaddam said this compares favorably to the NPS for Financial Partners CU overall, 78%, as well as the NPS for all CUs (58%) and banks (28%).

"The score is higher for the smart branch because the format is more conducive to consultation," he explained. "Members get more undivided attention. You feel good when you go in that branch. We have smart people there and great technology."

Tech + Personal Touch
When members visit the smart branch, they sign in by swiping their driver's license, or any ID with a magnetic stripe. The system captures their name, takes their picture and asks the reason for their visit. It then advises them the number of people ahead of them and an estimated wait time.

For some functions members are directed to self-service kiosks, or there is a place to wait.

Employees have iPads and can see how long members have been waiting, as well as their picture so the members may be given a "warm greeting" by name.

When the smart branch opened it was part of an expansion into the City of Orange. When CU Journal originally reported this story, FPCU planned to open a second smart branch within months, but Moghaddam said that got pushed back due to complications with signing a lease for a location in north Downey. Presently, the second smart branch is slated for opening in January. A third location, in Huntington Beach, is scheduled to be open by May.

The north Downey location will have remote teller terminals that are linked to people sitting in FPCU's Downey headquarters, which Moghaddam is particularly enthused about.

"We can apply the same approach to other locations without having to build expensive branches," he said. "Other credit unions have done well with remote tellers.

"We absolutely will continue to open smart branches in the future," he added. "The Huntington Beach location will save us significant money in rental expenses by allowing us to operate in 2,000 square feet instead of 5,200 square feet."

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