The idea that “credit unions are evolving” is an understatement. Not all that long ago, member service was limited to person-to-person encounters in a branch. Then came ATMs and, finally, remote delivery. Still, many credit unions maintain a fairly consistent approach to branching across their networks.
BECU has done things a bit differently while growing to be Washington state’s largest credit union. The $15 billion CU began adding “neighborhood financial centers,” originally called express service centers, in 1999. These small, in-store locations have no tellers, cash services or drive-throughs; all routine transactions are handled through onsite ATMs. The primary role of NFC staff is to build relationships by opening new accounts, responding to inquiriesd and solving members’ problems.
In 2002, BECU took advantage of a change in state regulations to expand its field of membership statewide and grow its branch network as well. Today the credit union operates 40-plus branches, including its two original locations. About four years ago, BECU managers realized that the NFCs provided convenient access for members and a physical brand connection, but were too small to support business, investment and mortgage service delivery. As a result, BECU began developing and testing a hybrid model, starting with a 6,000-square-foot, teller-less branch in Bellevue, Wash. This model was tested and refined and has been applied across the branch network, with two recent applications in the Spokane market.continue reading »