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4 Wisconsin Credit Unions Offer Services Through the CU Service Centers Shared Branching Network

Local credit unions know that on their own they could never match the national reach of large, commercial banks. But they have learned that if they work together, they can offer member access that rivals the biggest U.S. financial institutions.

As of March 5, four north central Wisconsin credit unions will offer their services through the CU Service Centers shared branching network. Joining the network means their members can perform transactions free of charge at any of 4,474 shared branch locations nationwide.

“It’s a good example of the way that credit unions share and cooperate with each other,” said Pat Wesenberg, president and chief executive officer of Central City Credit Union. “We understand we can’t build the branch network larger banks have, but we have the member convenience.”

Central City’s branch locations at 2331 Post Road in Plover and 3101 Hoover Road in Stevens Point became part of the network Feb. 6. The network provides added convenience to Central City’s 23,000 members, while making Central City’s services available to members of other credit unions in the area and across the country.

Locally, the network now includes Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union, 302 W. Upham Street., in Marshfield and Bull’s Eye Credit Union’s locations at 1930 Eighth Street. S. in Wisconsin Rapids and 3316 Business Park Drive in Stevens Point. Sentry Credit Union, 1800 North Point Drive, in Stevens Point joined the network March 5.

“That member satisfaction we’re after, I believe that convenience will work for all four of the central Wisconsin credit unions involved,” said David Stark, president of Bull’s Eye Credit Union. “You wouldn’t get four banks in the area working together, sharing branches.

“We work together. We’re a family, and we always will be.”

Carol Adler, president of Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union, first proposed the branch sharing relationship about a year ago. Her organization joined the CU Service Centers network in March 2011, and she wanted to help build the traction necessary to make it work in this area.

Shared branching first began in pockets of the country during the mid-1980s, Adler said. It has been available in cities such as Milwaukee and Madison, but until now had not taken root in this region of the state.

“I’ve been out talking to my peers in the area, saying, ‘You should get involved with this,’ being it’s a win for the credit union and a win for the members,” said Adler, whose organization boasts 5,400 members. “It has spread across the country in pockets. It just has grown – not an explosion sort of thing. It has been a process. It just keeps expanding and moving along.”

Members of credit unions involved in the network have access to a variety of services at any branch with the CU Service Centers’ “swirl” logo. They can make deposits and withdrawals, transfer funds, make loan payments and print out statements showing their recent account history.

To access their accounts at a shared branching location, a member will only need  the name of their primary institution, their account number and a valid picture ID. Members can find the nearest branch location by searching the network database online at www.cuservicecenter.com, or m.cuservicecenter.com on their mobile device.

“It’s marrying convenience with the credit union philosophy of not charging fees that the banks traditionally do,” said Rex Fair, president of Sentry Credit Union.

Currently, the only branch available to Sentry Credit Union members resides within the headquarters of Sentry Insurance. The shared branching relationship means Sentry’s members will be able to conduct business at multiple locations, with extended hours, weekend hours and drive-up service.

“For us, it is not having to go out and build brick and mortar buildings to provide those services,” said Fair, whose organization serves 6,600 members. “So, really, it is a cost-saving alternative to building two or three branches.

“As soon as we became aware of the fact (the other three local credit unions) had joined the organization, it made all the sense in the world to join and have local branches.”

The shared branching network provides added convenience for members who travel often, have children away at college and for snowbirds who live outside the area for part of the year. Sentry Credit Union serves many Sentry Insurance employees who live in other states, and they now likely will have a participating branch nearby.

“Over the past two or three years, we concentrated on enhancing our online banking services –

Internet banking, e-bill pay, electronic statements – but members define convenience as being able to go to a facility,” Fair said. “Someone out-of-state wouldn’t think we’re very convenient.”

Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union, on the other hand, is associated with a facility that attracts patients from outside the area. Those who belong to credit unions within the network have access to their accounts where they are receiving care.

“The surprise has been the myriad of people from other credit unions who find this location,” Adler said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of transactions we’ve had from other credit unions.”

The fee credit unions pay to join the network depends on their level of participation. Adler said it has been well worth it for the added member convenience and increased exposure.

For some transactions, such as applying for a loan, members still must go to their primary institution or complete an application online. In addition, network credit unions must pledge not to sell products or services to members of other participating organizations.

“We’re not concerned about losing members to another credit union, we’re more concerned about losing a member when they move out of the area – now we can maintain that relationship,” said Stark, who’s proud to now offer members access to the nation’s fourth-largest financial branch network.

“That says a lot as a small credit union in central Wisconsin.”

 Paul Kurth
Marketing Manager
pkurth@centralcitycu.com
o: 715-389-8213  |   c: 715-212-7528


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