In this, our annual "Year In Review" edition of Credit Union Journal, it's a time of reflection and retrospection, and so I harken back to opening my very first savings account.

I remember it well, as it made quite an impression on me. I was maybe 6 years old. My father took me to the small local bank (sorry about that), and I was so excited about the whole prospect that even standing in line seemed kind of cool (I guess I didn't get out much).

I got dressed up to go the bank. This was important adult stuff we were doing. One didn't go to the bank in a romper.

When we got there, I was glad I had taken the time to put on a nice dress. The bank was housed in a pristine white building with imposing and impressive columns. To my wide 6-year-old eyes, the inside was nearly as impressive with the plush, gold velvet ropes delineated where we were to stand to wait for our turn.

When the teller handed me my Golden Savings Passbook, where all my pennies saved would be recorded, I felt so grown-up and so important.

Flash forward about 10 years, and I was a teenager with a license to drive, an ATM card in my pocket and clear instructions from my mother to go take out some money and then pick up a few things at the grocery store. This was before ATMs were on every corner. In fact, there was only one ATM nearby.

It was in a small building that used to be an old Fotomat located in the parking lot of the grocery store. It was no longer a drive thru, and there was no one there to take film to be developed. In fact, there was no one there at all.

Instead, it was now a secured little building housing only the ATM. You had to swipe your card just to gain entry. It took me more than eight swipes just to get inside, each failed swipe causing a tickle of panic, as well as frustration. Needless to say, my first experience with an ATM was not nearly as positive as my first experience with an actual teller.

From Delighted to Dubious

Had I been asked at the time if I thought this whole ATM business would catch on, I likely would have been a bit dubious.

Flash forward just two more years, and I would have my first experience with a credit union. I joined because I could get a cheap checking account with which I could pay for books and other sundries. I never set foot in that credit union again, even though I had nothing but good experiences with it during my four years in school.

Within a few years of graduating, I would become a member of another credit union, this time as a result of marrying a man who also happened to be a CU member. To this day, I have never seen the inside of a single one of that credit union's branches.

Indeed, with the advent of ATMs (on nearly every corner and without a security protocol just to stand next to them), online banking and mobile deposit, I can't think of the last time I've been inside a credit union or bank branch for personal financial business.

And while I'm generally happy NOT to have to go inside a branch, it occurs to me that the last time I was delighted by a financial services provider of any stripe was that long-ago day when a teller handed me my Golden Savings Passbook.

One might suggest that, in the intervening 37 years, I've come to expect more, and I'm not nearly as easily delighted. One wouldn't be wrong.

But I can't help wondering if, when I take my children to open their first savings accounts (something I'll be doing here very soon), whether they, too, will be impressed and delighted by the experience.

This is a time of year filled with magic and wonder — it's awfully darn hard to compete with Santa Claus. But it's also a time for reflection, and that makes it the perfect time for everyone from the credit union CEO on down to the teller to ask themselves: have I delighted a member today?

Editor in Chief Lisa Freeman can be reached at lisa.freeman@sourcemedia.com.