How 4 Credit Unions Beat The Branch Doldrums

The credit union branch network continues to grow, with different strategies across the map.

The future of the branch has been greatly debated and its death greatly exaggerated. According to Callahan & Associates’ annual Credit Union Directory, credit unions actually added to the number of branches nationwide by 2% in the 12-month period ending June 2015.

That’s 20,992 branches nationwide, now serving more than 100 million members and their more than $1 trillion in assets. Membership growth, in fact, outpaced branch growth in that aforementioned 12-month period, and now stands at 4,873 per branch, up 148 from the year before.


For all U.S. credit unions | Data as of 06.30.15
Callahan & Associates |


Source: 2016 Credit Union Directory by Callahan & Associates

The industry also increased its investments in land, building, and other fixed assets by 4.2% year-over-year, totaling $23.5 billion at midyear 2015. As the map above shows, Florida credit unions added the most branches, 23, while Ohio credit unions posted the sharpest decline statewide, losing 17 overall from June 2014 through June 2015.

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But the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story. Each credit union, in fact, has its own story, its own branching strategy, its own approach to high-tech, high-touch service that blends the old and the new. Here are four of them.

Northern Gets Smart

Northern Credit Union ($217.6M, Watertown, NY) has seven branches that host 16 smart offices. These smart offices allow members to complete account and loan applications via video conferencing with off-site representatives. Each smart office is fitted with two-way video communication and each contains a television, a personal computer, a printer, a signature pad, and a scanner. In the first quarter of 2015, smart office transactions represented 55% of all new accounts opened and 59% of approved loan applications at Northern. Learn more about this strategy here.

80% of our membership might never come into our branches, but when they do, they will be wowed.

Chrome Galvanizes Its Future

Chrome Federal Credit Union ($137.5M, Washington, PA) has two branches and an aggressive strategy for positioning them to serve the soccer mom and millennial market emerging from the rust belt community it serves near Pittsburgh, PA. The result is an operation that president and CEO Christopher George says is striving to become what Apple would look like if it was a bank. That includes not only mobile tools for the digital banker but also open layouts and robust self-serve options. Plus a commercial coffee machine that grinds on-site.

80% of our membership might never come into our branches, or maybe come in once or twice a year, George says. But when they do, they will be wowed. Learn how here.

Where Virtual Is Reality

Park Community Credit Union ($773.4M, Louisville, KY) has 15 branches, including some new ones that boast interactive teller machines, those teller in a box devices that enable the credit union to extend hours and security while serving more people with fewer staff. But not just any staff. The credit union chose its small pool of ITM tellers for their people skills as well as their comfort with being on camera. See the whole picture here.

Explore maps, leader tables, and hundreds of pages of credit union performance data in Callahan’s Credit Union Directory. It’s the gold standard for reliable insight. Download your digital copy today.

Spreading The Love

State Employees’ Credit Union ($31.8B, Raleigh, NC) has 255 branches, in a state that has 644 credit union branches overall. The nation’s second-largest credit union builds on that brick-and-mortar domination by decentralizing big time, including treating every office as its own loan origination center.


The bread and butter of our model and our competitive advantage is having experienced lenders in every branch, says Mark Coburn, SECU’s senior vice president of lending development. More on that here. But that’s not all. SECU extends that philosophy to contact centers, placing several in branches around the state where unemployment is particularly high. That strategy serves a social and business purpose alike. Here’s how.

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December 21, 2016

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