Branches, along with associated employee costs, must not be just transactions centers. They must enable the institution to grow its membership base and balance sheet.
While new branches are important for credit unions entering new markets, building a sales culture and developing area business can help existing branches and propel the broaderinstitution. That said, some credit unions choose to limit physical locations to serve members through virtual networks, shared branching locations, or call centers.
And there is a difference in financial performance between the two models.
The chart below shows credit unions with $250 million to $500 million in assets with at least nine branches. These credit unions fall in the upper third of the peer group bynumber of branches.Similarly, the smaller branch network group reflects credit unions in this peer group with four or fewer branches. This number of branches indicates the lowest third of the peer group. The entire peer group is shown as well for comparisonpurposes.
|Peer Group Comparison|
|Data as of December 31, 2011|
| Branch Networks in the Top Third
|Asset Based Peer Group Average|| Branch Networks in the Bottom Third
(4 or Fewer)
Number Of Credit Unions
|Branches at Year-End 2011||12||8||4|
|Branches at Year-End 2006||9||6||3|
|Loans Granted YTD||5.44%||5.20%||2.97%|
|Loans Granted YTD||2.50%||1.75%||-0.18%|
|Average Member Relationship||$12,501||$13,859||$16,313|
|Accounts Per Member||2.29||2.33||2.40|
|Members Per Employee||333||353||409|
|Non-Interest Income To Total Income||30.14%||27.01%||20.93%|
|Fee Income Per Member||$104||$92||$67|
|Operating Expense Ratio||4.05%||3.52%||2.81%|
|Net Worth Ratio||10.06%||10.46%||11.02%|
|Source: Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer Software.|
Credit unions with larger branch networks posted higher rates of balance sheet growth, but for outstanding loans and shares, the difference between peer groups was relatively minor.
One significant difference in the annual growth rates is the year-over-year change in the amount of loans granted year-to-date.Credit unions with larger branch networks increased originations 5.4% while credit unions with smaller branch networks increased them 3.0%.
Credit unions with smaller branch networks grew operating expenses by a smaller percentage than their peers both annually and over the past five years.
Credit unions with smaller branch networks have deeper member relationships. The difference is visible in both balances and the number of accounts. These credit unions hold more than $16,300in combined loan and share balances per member, which is well above their peer averages. The number of loan and share accounts also exceeds the other peer groups.
Even with additional accounts, the members-per-employee ratio, which measures productivity, is better with the smaller branch network credit unions. The number of front-line employees required to staff branches is the main driver. This is also certainly responsible for the significantly lower efficiency ratio.
However, credit unions with larger branch networks have a higher ROA. Ultimately it comes down to non-interest income.There is little difference in the share draft penetration ratio between groups (not shown on chart). Credit unions with larger branch networks recognize higher levels of fee income and other operating income. The variance in this area is not simplyjust higher fees, it is more diverse sources of non-interest income including interchange, mortgage banking activities,and member transactions.
Larger branch network credit unions also post slightly higher levels of loan interest income generated from a higher loan-to-shareratio. The combined effects of interest and non-interest income relative to expenses can be seen in the efficiency ratio.While smaller branch network credit unions have better values the variance is minor (3.96%) compared to the variance in the operating expense ratio (44.1%).
Ultimately, higher levels and diverse sources of income generate a higher ROA level at these credit unions. Each credit union’s delivery model is guided by the Board of Directors andthe value passed back tomembers should determine its success.