It’s Not A Branch, It’s A Learning Lab

Dupaco Community’s new branch concept combines interactive tellers, meaningful conversation, and fluid design to boost member satisfaction.


Dupaco Community Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: Dubuque, IA
MEMBERS: 98,088
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 10.9%
ROA: 1.51%

In 2015, Dupaco Community Credit Union ($1.5B, Dubuque, IA) opened a branch near a local community college in the western suburbs of Dubuque, IA.

Dupaco values its brick-and-mortar presence, especially in high-visibility locations. But in this suburban branch, Dupaco wanted to try something different.

At the time, its total branch transactions were up over past years and member growth was strong due partly to a merger in the second quarter of 2014 with the 10,000-member Iowa Community Credit Union but branch transactions per household were declining compared to the national average.

So instead of opening a traditional transactional branch, Dupaco opened its first learning lab in June 2015, a branch designed to solve a member’s personal financial challenges.

If members didn’t like it, then they could go back to driving into town to conduct their financial business, says David Klavitter, the credit union’s senior vice president of marketing and public relations.

What’s The Learning Lab?

Like most financial institutions, Dupaco has been considering the complex question of what its branch of the future looks like, Klavitter says. Rather than starting with technology or location, however, the credit union leads with a simple question: How can a branch act in a member’s best interest?

Dupaco’s learning labs there are now three rely less on transactions and more on conversations; they are a place where members come to work with the institution to solve their financial challenges.

And the design of the location reflects that purpose.

It’s not just a building with a sign on it. It is a sign, Klavitter says.

Inside, the branch is built to support conversations with greeters, dialog tables, and private offices where members can work with Dupaco representatives. For transactions, there are ITMs and iPads equipped with the credit union’s mobile app.

Floorspace is flexible branch staff can move around machines and benches to accommodate changing member behavior and furnishings make the branch feel less like a credit union and more like a new-age retail environment with tall glass windows, a concrete floor and unfinished ceiling, and enough electrical and data ports to make rearranging the layout easy.

How’s The Learning Lab Work?

According to Klavitter, ITMs make the whole lab concept work.

Learning labs have no traditional teller lines or pods. Instead, Dupaco operates eight ITMs across its three labs, forcing members to use the technology.

We don’t give members an option, Klavitter says. People would just revert back to their comfort zone.

Greeters at the learning labs welcome members as they walk in and help them feel comfortable in what might be a foreign branch environment.

When we don’t have a traditional teller line, we found we still need somebody to engage members and guide them to where they need to go, Klavitter says.

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As members transact on ITMs, in-person branch staff focus on conversations and financial counseling, which at Dupaco primarily takes the form of money makeovers and credit lessons.

The credit union performs more than 2,000 free money makeovers annually. In a money makeover, a credit union representatives sits with a member to review their entire financial picture, including credit scores, budgeting, assets and debt, systematic savings, and retirement planning.

Our members are learning about their money and we’re learning how best to help members understand their money.

David Klavitter, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, Dupaco Community Credit Union

During credit history lessons, a representative sits with a member to review their credit report and talk about how to improve scores.

The result of Dupaco’s learning lab concept is immediate Dupaco-ized engagement with members, Klavitter says. ContentMiddleAd

The credit union surveys members on an ongoing basis, both at the point of transaction and through monthly relationship surveys, and, anecdotally, learning lab satisfaction is high, Klavitter says. One of the labs even ranks in the top three among Dupaco’s entire 19-branch footprint.

Additionally, the ITMs have allowed the credit union to expand operating hours in lab locations by one hour in the morning and one at night. The credit union is still looking for other ways to improve services in these branches.

That’s why it’s called a Learning Lab,’ Klavitter says. Our members are learning about their money and we’re learning how best to help members understand their money.

May 29, 2017

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