In the credit union world, it’s no secret that change is constant. With the abundance of information available, it can be challenging to gather strategies to better your credit union’s operations and network. We have compiled three of our most popular whitepapers that explore the most pressing topics credit unions face today. As we delve into each whitepaper, we unravel strategies and insights; shedding light on the never-ending relevance of physical branches, the considerations in building operations centers, and the innovative ways that credit union branches can not only adapt– but thrive in an increasingly digital landscape. Join us in discussing the key considerations for credit unions as they navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, embracing innovation, growth, and expansion.
If you build it, will they come?
Any architect or contractor can design and build a new operations center, but how does one ensure that it’s specifically designed to support a credit union’s distinctive growth trajectory? One word: planning.
Building an operations center requires a solid strategic plan, leveraging critical information derived from internal projections and third-party expertise. We’ve prepared a whitepaper for financial institutions that explores the importance and impact planning has on large-scale builds, and how each decision can and should be rooted in data-backed insights. Some of the questions we’ll answer include:
- Growth: Are you planning to pursue growth, if so from where?
- Programs & platforms: Are there any planned technology improvements that will reduce back-office staff needs?
- Culture: How should your culture influence how the building is put together?
- Scale: What kind of timeline, investment, and organizational impact will a project like this have?
- Planning: How do you evaluate current market conditions including real estate, traffic patterns, and demographic and sociographic data as part of the foundational aspect of the project?
Whether you’re exploring an operations center to streamline your footprint and better serve new and prospective consumers, recruit and retain top talent – or a little bit of both – the question you’ll need to answer is: If you build it, will they come?
Long live the branch
Over the last few years, the role of traditional brick-and-mortar branches has been a topic of debate. Self-proclaimed ‘experts’ continue to state that the branch is dead. While the stats are true, this claim does not take branch closures, acquisitions, or mergers into consideration. Additionally, overall branch activity for many of our clients is being reported as positive, and we see this as a growing trend in the industry. With these changes in the branch network, it is more important than ever to leverage data to make smart, strategic decisions about how you’re positioned within your markets.
The Past: Looking backwards to move forward
If you want to move forward and grow your market share, it is often most appropriate to look backwards and analyze and understand your organization’s recent history first. You can leverage data from the last 5-10 years to make informed decisions about your branch. Analyzing past trends, consumer behaviors, and market dynamics provides a solid foundation for strategic planning.
The Present: Understanding the here & now
Moving from past analysis to the present, financial institutions must conduct a detailed evaluation of their current position, consumers, facilities, and competition. Each of these should be individually assessed through the lens of the respective markets they are in. Pulling in all that data should start to paint a picture of your organization’s performance, consumer profile and market positioning. The current state analysis tells you where you are strong, where you are vulnerable, and where you should focus your efforts in your future strategic planning.
The Future: What lies ahead
With a comprehensive understanding of past trends and the current state of your financial institution, you can now look at the future and focus on developing a strategic plan. While this plan will ultimately be specific to your organization and its needs, there are several components that should be included in it. For starters, it is important to set goals, evaluate all components of the strategic plan and leverage data for decision-making.
A good strategic plan should consider your past, current situation and desired future of your organization. Adapting to change, understanding consumer needs, and leveraging data for strategic decision-making are some of the key elements in ensuring continued success. With a strategic plan set in place, physical branches can thrive and remain a crucial component in service offerings to most consumers.
How physical branches can thrive in a digital world
Throughout their history, credit unions have excelled in providing personalized, relationship-based services within their local brick and mortar locations. As society has adopted a digital economy, these same financial institutions have continued to meet the consumer where they are by providing online banking services. In adding these technology-based channels, some financial institutions have inadvertently lost personal touch. As the industry continues to evolve, it is critical to re-engage the member at a personal level while still providing the convenience of online channels.
Bridging the gap between high-tech and high-touch can be achieved by leveraging technology that facilitates high-quality, personalized interactions. To be successful, credit unions need to integrate technology in a way that enhances their brand, delivers personalized service to their consumers and empowers employees to connect with the member. It is not simply installing screens blandly showcasing your most recent auto loan rate, or using ITMs in your branches, it must serve a purpose and be personalized. What appeals to seniors versus the twenty-somethings can be quite different.
So, what is the right kind of in-branch technology to focus on? And how do you gain leadership and board approval for the investment?
As explored in our whitepapers, the strategic planning involved in building operations centers is crucial for supporting a credit union’s distinctive growth trajectory. The debate surrounding the role of traditional branches persists, with data suggesting a positive trend in overall branch activity. Leveraging historical data to understand the past, evaluating the present through market-specific lenses, and focusing on the future through comprehensive strategic planning are essential steps for credit unions looking to thrive. And lastly, the challenge lies in bridging the gap between the digital and physical realms, and our data emphasizes the importance of integrating technology to enhance personalized interactions without sacrificing the human touch. As credit unions navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead, embracing innovation, strategic planning, and a balance between technology and personalized service will be key to sustained success in the evolving financial landscape.