Almost no one likes visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles, but one credit union is betting it can change that perception.
Rocky Hill, Conn.-based Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union this week debuted its newest branch, a facility staffed exclusively by credit union employees but split between offering CU services on one side of the building and DMV services on another. In honor of the grand opening, the credit union hosted a celebration that included several dignitaries, among them Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy.
According to CEO John Holt, the Connecticut DMV had an agreement with a facility in a different part of the state that wasn’t renewed, and after putting together a proposal to have a DMV Express center inside a Nutmeg State branch, the agency accepted.
“There were some discussions here at the credit union where we said to ourselves ‘We know we want to have our members bank online so that it’s convenient for them and saves them time, but we also want to be able to have traffic in our branches so we can consult with people and build banking relationships with the people coming in who don’t have relationships with Nutmeg,” explained Holt. “We know the DMV creates a lot of traffic, that’s for sure, and there you have it.”
Rather than employing DMV staff inside the credit union’s branch, Nutmeg State employees are trained to use DMV software. Consumers can enter the credit union, use a DMV kiosk — equipped with technology designed by the credit union — to make an appointment or set their place in line, and then wait until their scheduled time or leave the branch and return later.
The new facility also has the potential to help Nutmeg State grow and boost fee income. Members can use the DMV facility for free, while non-members pay a $5 convenience fee, though that fee is waived if they choose to join.
“It’s up to our consultants within the branch to work with them on what might best fit their needs and what might be best for them beyond a share account,” noted Holt. Because the credit union has a community charter spanning four counties, there are fewer hurdles surrounding who can join.
‘It’s the experience’
The DMV-equipped branch can handle driver's licenses and ID card renewals, name changes, duplicate licenses, learner's permits and more, though vehicle registration and other services are not available.
The facility is Nutmeg State’s 11th location and its third in the southern part of New Haven County. It was designed specifically to allow for DMV services, and while a wall separates the DMV from the credit union side of the branch, Holt explained that that it still feels wide open when consumers enter.
Outfitting the new building for DMV services did add an extra cost to construction, said Holt, but because the facility is a self-service branch with no teller line or vault, “it really helped in the efficiency of how we could lay it out.” Additionally, the branch has a few more employees that would be typical for a space of that size, “but we believe the strategy of getting that traffic in the door and converting it is very important, and that will easily support the added expense of having a few extra people on the DMV side.”
Nutmeg State will likely recoup those extra costs at a 1 to 2 percent conversation rate for foot traffic, Holt said, noting that estimate is a conservative one “and if we do our job well and our conversions are a lot higher, the return could be huge.”
And while the popular perception surrounding the DMV may be negative, Holt said the credit union has an ace up its sleeve that could help it beat that stereotype.
“What we’ve added to the mix here is that no DMV offices in Connecticut offer the ability to set up an appointment and come back,” he said, adding “Today the average wait time was 20 minutes in the queue without an appointment. That’s just the first day — certainly it may be higher or lower, but I think the technology will help. It’s not going to be every day that it’s going to be perfect; there might be some days where we say ‘Where did all these people come from? We have no room!’ But we’ll try to help them, serve them water, serve snacks, they can sit down [and] we can talk to them about the credit union … They do not have that option now with the Connecticut DMV. That's what makes us different — it’s the experience.”