CINCINNATI-While expanding the CU's reach via electronic services is even more popular today due to belt tightening, one vendor cautions not to overlook bricks and mortar in 2013.

Those types of discussions must be had, insisted Michael King, VP strategic planning for DEI, who said his company often determines, after market analysis, that a physical location is the best way to expand a CU's footprint. "You really need someone with an outside perspective to come in and analyze the local market and the credit union," explained King.

King said that DEI clients are finding that expansion through additional branches can often be the best way to further entrench the credit union within the community, and therefore deepen relationships with members. "A well-designed branch that reflects the membership goes a long way toward differentiating the credit union from other CUs and banks," insisted King, who said some of the new branches DEI is designing have "community walls" within them.

The Wow Factor

"We also work to give each branch some kind of wow factor and have them stand out," said King. "This kind of impact you can't have with electronic mediums. The ability of a well-designed and well-positioned branch within the community can have a huge impact on the credit union's business and is worth the investment."

King stressed that branches can improve cross selling and even lending, over electronic mediums. He said that careful analysis of the local market can help the credit union strategically place more loan officers where the demand is and improve loan to share ratios, as well.

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