How two CU’s leveraged member insights to rethink the branch

With the significant shifts to digital banking over the past decade, many credit unions find themselves reassessing the role of the physical branch. However, digital banking does not reign supreme for all services. Members continue to choose the branch despite having access to digital services, largely because it’s easier. Reasons why people don’t use digital applications stem from distrust to difficulty of use, prompting them to seek out a local branch for services like deposits, guidance, and opening accounts. (EPAM: Future of Banking)

To retain this foot traffic, credit unions are in a unique position to reinvent the branch by bridging the gap between digital and in-person services. At the same time, financial institutions should seek to evolve accessibility and adapt to the communities they serve.

A recent study by Filene, a Wisconsin-based research institute, sought to gain insights on how to redefine the branch, and what attributes mattered most to employees and members.

The test approach involved member focus groups and staff interviews from two geographically different credit unions and gathered feedback to create a roadmap of ideas to amplify branch value.

The research topics focused on the following:

Optimizing physical presence for trust and diverse needs: How can credit unions enhance their physical locations to build trust and address the diverse needs of their members?

Design elements for safety and inclusivity: Which design features are most effective in promoting a sense of safety and inclusivity, encouraging members from various backgrounds to conduct their financial transactions confidently?

Leveraging physical space to create value: In what ways can credit unions utilize their physical spaces to add value for their members and the surrounding communities?

Impact of physical space modifications on engagement and awareness: How would changes to the physical space affect member engagement and community awareness?

Based on the feedback, Filene worked with La Macchia Group, a Wisconsin-based design/build firm focused exclusively on financial institutions, to develop design concepts for both credit unions. La Macchia Group offered in-kind 2D designs informed by the feedback from members and staff. The participating credit unions were able to utilize specifications from existing or future branch locations for the prototype design to ensure the solutions were actionable.

Key Takeaways:

  • Members said that human staff within a welcoming branch environment plays a very significant role in strengthening loyalty. Although branch visits may be infrequent, the services accessed during these transactions required personal interaction.
  • The branch atmosphere needed to strike a balance between functionality, comfort, and privacy. Members said they don’t need anything too fancy, rather clean and functional.
  • Make it comfortable. Attributes like natural light, visibility, and a vibrant atmosphere can foster the comfort level of the member.
  • Ensure the in-branch signage is prioritized. Feedback indicated that clearer signage and wayfinding queues were desired, especially in open-concept branches.
  • Create community spaces for gatherings to promote longer visits and foster neighborhood connections. These multifunctional spaces can serve as conference or classrooms, and also provide space for financial literacy sessions.

These actionable insights, among more not listed in this article, all seek to design a branch with the member in mind. Creating environments that are not just aesthetically pleasing, but also highly functional and secure, is a solid foundation in growing and retaining member loyalty and satisfaction. By seeking member feedback, credit unions can actively incorporate updates that ensure their spaces meet the changing needs of their communities.

The report, Rethinking Physical Space, can be found in it’s entirety, including the design concepts that were developed in-kind through a partnership with Filene and La Macchia Group, by visiting

Ben La Macchia

Ben La Macchia

Benjamin La Macchia is Senior Vice President of La Macchia Group, a design-build firm and trusted partner of hundreds of financial institutions across the nation. Ben serves as the in-house ... Web: Details