The Value of a Blank Slate

A letter from the Managing Editor.

Earlier this month, with one week of vacation time and one Jeep packed to the brim with books, musical instruments, and all the various possessions we’ve managed to collect in our time on earth, my wife and I set off on a cross-country trip from Washington D.C. to our new home in the Valley of the Sun Phoenix, Arizona.

If you, like me, sometimes feel the world has become completely conglomerated, you’ll find that the effect is significantly magnified within a one-mile radius of the interstate.

On our trip, we passed hundreds of Wal-Marts, Outback Steakhouses, Shell Stations, Days Inns, and all the other major chains a weary road warrior (apparently?) demands each as indistinct and interchangeable as the last.

But we also passed many credit union locations with unique brands and membership that changed like clockwork right along with the countryside.

I’d heard of, studied, and interacted with many of these institutions at conferences and over the phone, but never had the chance to see so many of these brands in their element before.

With each, I was reminded of both how prominent the cooperative movement is, and how unique and valuable a community-oriented brand really is in this world.

So rather than a one-size-fits-all, side-of-the-highway approach, I hope you truly embrace the freedom to adapt both your brick and mortar and contact center strategies to what works best for your unique employees, communities, and membership.

In this edition of Technology@CU, we start with a high level, data-driven analysis of branch footprints across the industry and determine how this activity breaks down by asset size and region. We also explain why the individual decisions credit unions make here have big implications for employee productivity and efficiency, loan growth, reliance on non-interest income, and other key financial considerations.

Next, we feature a Q&A with Summit Credit Union. Increasingly, this cooperative is turning to alternative branches including an inspiration branch that represents members financial dreams as a strategic complement to its overall footprint.

Then, we go behind the scenes to examine the human element of credit union operations, with a feature on the shifting roles of branch employees and best practices from credit unions that have brought sales activity into (and in one case, out of) the call center.

Be sure to check out our Pixels section, which is designed to help you think larger with your ATM strategy by profiling all the amazing functions (as well as a few bizarre ones) that next-generation units are able to handle.

Finally, don’t miss our Buyer’s Guide, with all the partner resources you need to make these visions a reality.

Consumers know exactly what they’re going to get from the big, for-profit institutions, and no matter how many state lines they cross, it will always be more of the same.

So when the time comes to grow or enhance your physical delivery channels, think carefully about the reasons behind this activity, and be cautious not to lose the uniqueness that makes you distinct from the masses.

October 14, 2013

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