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A trio of credit unions share how they're changing their branching footprint, from coffee shop chic to no-frills virtual branches.
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As credit unions continue to find ways to expand their branch presence without spending big bucks on brick-and-mortar facilities, Hickam Federal Credit Union in Hawaii has opened what it calls a self-service kiosk branch inside the Kahala Mall Shopping Center.

The $535 million CU said the facility — which is its fifth branch — is a first-of-its-kind banking concept in Hawaii. Kahala Mall is one of the largest shopping destinations on the island of Oahu, and the credit union said members will be able to conduct many of the typical teller transactions themselves through several self-service touchpoints.
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The kiosk branch includes an advanced-function ATM with check scanning and cashing capabilities, an in-lobby teller terminal, and a product and service browsing bar outfitted with several notebooks.

In addition, credit union representatives are available to provide personalized service with account transactions or information about the various products and services that Hickam FCU offers.

Shown above are Lei-Ann Nishihama and Al Jon Pua, both member relations representatives at the Kahala branch.
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The new branch is part of the CU's strategy for serving the expanded field of membership it was granted in 2011, when Hickam was approved to serve the entire island of Oahu. Management says the Kahala Mall kiosk branch represents a "strategic component" toward the credit union's long-term business plan of serving its broader field of membership.

"The innovative Hickam FCU Kahala Mall branch is situated in a high-traffic retail environment and located conveniently for existing members, who reside or work on the east side of the island of Oahu," the CU said in a statement.
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Hickam FCU said it realizes innovative technologies such as online, mobile and automated banking transactions are quickly becoming the way to manage most of one's financial transactions. With the installation of its Kahala Mall branch, the CU said it is using several technologies to allow for efficient and enhanced delivery of credit union services, whereby also providing an experience of helping members with the adoption of self-service delivery channels to conducting their credit union business.

"The kiosk branch moves the credit union member service representatives out from behind the teller counter and allows them to interact openly with members and the public with their financial needs," it said.
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University of Michigan Credit Union recently opened two new locations ... sort of.

The virtual branches, located on the campuses of University of Michigan-Flint and Washtenaw Community College, allow members to video chat with representatives located at the CU's main headquarters in downtown Ann Arbor. Using the remote conference technology, as well as iPads that are provided at the branch, members can do everything from depositing a check to applying for a car loan or a Visa credit card.

"These new branches are all about continuing to amaze our members by providing the services they want in new and innovative ways," Tiffany Ford, president and CEO of UMCU, said in a statement.

"University of Michigan Credit Union member service representatives are ready to assist with all of our members' financial needs. At our virtual branches, this is done remotely using a secure and confidential connection," explained Ford.
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UMCU noted self-service options have been increasing across a number industries in recent years. Virtual kiosks allow for efficient check-in at airports, quick purchasing of tickets at movie theatres and more. And while some people still prefer in-person, face-to-face transactions, the credit union asserted the desire for self service options seems to be steadily growing.

"We want to make sure we are offering the best possible individual experience for each member, whatever their preference may be," said Ford. "It is important to us that the member is in control of how we assist them, whether that is in person, online or now at one of our virtual branches."
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The Washtenaw Community College virtual branch is located in Ann Arbor on the second floor of the Student Center. The U-M Flint virtual branch is located inside the front entrance at the University Pavilion Building.
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In Colorado, Elevations CU is taking branching to a whole new, well, elevation. It's "Branch 2.0 model" launched in 2014 has delivered double-digit percentage increases in new member acquisition and dramatically increased loan-to-share ratio, according to Elevations COO Jay Champion. The key, he said, was a shift in focus from transactions to conversations.
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"When we set about to invent the next evolution of the branch, we looked at studies and we traveled to other institutions to see how other places were changing the branch model," he recalled. "With Branch 2.0 we think we have combined the best attributes of a coffee house and the Apple Genius Bar — it creates an environment that is comfortable, casual and leads to a conversation."

In its new-model branches, Elevations uses what other FIs refer to as "universal agents," but the CU calls them financial services guides. According to Champion, the combination of the new surroundings and the guides that can do much more than tellers has been a huge boon for the credit union and the members alike.

"They have consistently been at the top of producing loyalty and cross-sales as we have introduced them to our existing branches," he said. "We are delivering more loans through this model, and double-digit, year-over-year new member acquisition. We also have seen loan-to-share ratio climb at locations where these elements of the 2.0 model are being rolled in."
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Elevations CU now has 11 branches, all in Colorado. Three of the 11 are Branch 2.0 models. The first example of Branch 2.0 was in Loveland, Colo., in a facility that was converted from a traditional branch. After that opened in February 2014, Branch 2.0 models that were built from scratch opened in Louisville in March 2014 (shown above), and then in Fort Collins in November 2014.Each Branch 2.0 location was built with green materials and features local artwork. The CU created a video for its YouTube channel that shows off the new concept.

Champion said the goal of making the branching experience more relaxed and consultative has been achieved.

"These new branches are very comfortable for members, and this allows our people to transition into a conversation as to what their financial needs and goals are. This leads to our being able to say how the credit union can help. This is very different from someone just coming in to perform a transaction."
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Elevations has one branch in Boulder that is "very large" and still sees a significant number of in-person transactions, Champion noted. That branch is in the middle of a redesign. "It will have a waiting area, a greeter and some new self-service technology. It will look like Branch 2.0 in a lot of ways, but it will still have a teller line because there are a lot of transactions performed at that branch."

The CU will continue remodeling its existing branches into Branch 2.0 models on a rolling basis, he said.

"The new branches have been rated higher by members than traditional branches, and they are taking out more loans at those branches. They are even attracting a younger demographic because they feel comfortable coming in and talking to us," Champion said. "This is the way credit unions ought to be rethinking their real estate in branches. These new branches are helping us compete with Wells Fargo and Chase. The big banks are continuing to innovate what they do with their branches, so credit unions need to do the same."