A Strategy To Build A Balanced Branching Diet

Sharonview FCU is embracing an “and” — not an “or” — approach to physical branching and virtual channels.

With $1.1 billion in assets and more than 68,000 members, South Carolina-based Sharonview Federal Credit Union ($1.1B, Fort Mill, SC) is making major investments to provide its members with what they want: convenient locations AND robust online services.

CEO Bill Partin is leading the charge to make a name for the credit union in its crowded marketplace. In doing so, the credit union is trading in its Sharon-who? reputation for one that befits a market-leading institution.

When Partin joined in September of 2013, Sharonview was building its virtual footprint through a heavy focus on e-services and the goal to be all electronic all the time, according to the CEO.

However, broader experiences, including serving as senior vice president and chief member services officer for Partners Credit Union in California, led Partin to take a more holistic approach.

I’m a big data guy, Partin says. So I wanted to get to know our membership early on and base our decisions on solid facts and figures.


Sharonview Federal Credit Union
data as of 3.31.15

  • HQ: Fort Mill, SC
  • ASSETS: $1.1B
  • MEMBERS: 68,462
  • EMPLOYEES: 221
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 2.80%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 11.54%
  • ROA: 0.93%

Sharonview is primarily a SEG-based credit union it serves roughly 700 of them but has also picked up a handful of underserved community charters. The result is an interesting geographic mix that includes South Carolina, North Carolina, and New Jersey along with a lot of untapped opportunities.

To capitalize on both its employer and community-based opportunities, the credit union hired an outside firm to conduct an in-depth market study.

By analyzing the physical addresses of our SEGs, our members, and our locations within the context of the metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in which we operate, the study helped us pinpoint opportunities to deepen market penetration, Partin says.

For example, North Carolina’s Cleveland County is a part of Sharonview’s field of membership, yet the credit union captures only 6% of the market there. Nearby Charlotte is home to more than 56,000 businesses, so Sharonview believes a SEG focus is the right approach in that market.

By having this data and stack-ranking the opportunities, we were able to tell the board a story focused on how we could deepen the penetration in specific markets through physical expansion, Partin says.

As a result, the board has committed to building five to 10 branches between now and 2019.

The physical expansion will take advantage of the network effect. Instead of spending $500,000 per branch for several new locations in the same area, the credit union will build a single branch and deploy several ATM kiosks with branded wraps.

We have some high growth areas in our field of membership, Partin says. Those members will suddenly be seeing Sharonview in several places, which makes the credit union look and feel much bigger.

Despite the plans to invest in its physical presence in key areas, Sharonview is not walking away from its commitment to virtual services.

We know members want a robust online and mobile bank offering as well, Partin says. The credit union plans to invest $1 million a year on e-commerce initiatives in addition to our branch expansion plans.

Sharonview is putting money toward everything from a website redesign to a tech overhaul investments that ensure the credit union stays on top of online and mobile service channels. The credit union recently updated its core system and is implementing a new consumer loan and mortgage origination system for both online and in-branch use. Plus, new branches will incorporate technology that allows them to better use smaller retail-oriented spaces with the end goal of moving away from teller services and toward activities that deepen member relationships.

We want to move from transactions to interactions, Partin says. Our new Gaston County branch, opening in September, will be completely tellerless.

That branch’s financial services representatives will be ready to discuss larger financial needs such as car loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Instead of the traditional teller model, the new branch will feature a concierge area, where staff will welcome members and guide them to the right area, a tech desk to introduce members to mobile technology, a mortgage loan officer, and several private spaces where staff and members can have in-depth conversations. Members will also have access to a smart ATM and nearby drive-up ATM.

Sharonview is supporting its branch and tech investments with a robust advertising plan developed to help the credit union hit $2 billion in assets and serve more members than ever before.

Our hope is that however you spend time with us, we can help you with your finances, Partin says. We want to be there to provide financial education and service whether it is online, on the phone, or across the desk.

May 25, 2015

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