Meeting member’s needs: a Credit Union branch strategy
RATIO wrote this on Jan 13, 2020

A successful credit union branch strategy means meeting members’ needs today and in the future.

Ensure the credit union branch strategy is member-focused and adaptable as demographics, needs and expectations change. As opposed to a single solution, a successful credit union branch strategy requires Distinctive Thinking, an integrated solution defined by the member,  community and the credit union brand.

 Seven considerations for credit unions when contemplating their branch network strategy:

1. Leverage the Credit Union’s competitive differences.

Credit Unions are viewed as ‘authentic’, working for the ‘greater good’ and the ‘better way’. Values-based credit unions are the disruptor to corporate banking. Because members and community come first to them, branch design and service delivery decisions must support the credit union’s unique overarching ethos.  Trust is built by understanding and reflecting local values.

2. Rethink Credit Union branch strategies.

Consider overarching demographic projections first. Other key considerations are member usage habits, the degree of flexibility in real estate commitments, market opportunities, brand reinforcement and scalable branch design.

3. Face-to-face counts for high-value transactions.

Create an environment that serves relationship building. Face-to-face meetings are expected  (and wanted) for higher value transactions like those aligned with life and business milestones such as mortgages, personal and business loans, wealth management and insurance. Consider and understand where, why and when in-branch privacy is important.

4. A Credit Union branch network design strategy includes flexibility, connection and consistency.

Implement a scalable and agile kit of parts for branches. Consider different branch sizes and create a hierarchy of importance.

What is essential at every location?

Where are expanded services required?

How do you deliver a full-service offering through all available channels?

Service delivery can be accomplished through a Hub and Spoke model including mobile and remote delivery of services. For example, perhaps a smaller ‘service’ or even a cashless ‘micro branch’ or ‘kiosk’ may not have financial advisors, insurance advisors, foreign currency etc. on site. Members can be connected to a Hub Branch or remote services quickly and efficiently. Ensure those interfaces are considered and made seamless, or members will be lost.

5. Design for your members — and to meet operational goals.

When considering a singular branch transformation or refresh; design for your members. What do they see when they come into the branch? Look at possible solutions through the lens of members. Then, do those branch solutions align with the organization’s overarching mission, brand, growth plans and flexibility?  Avoid making branch by branch decisions on operational and design issues. Consistency in design and service delivery should be the goal.

6. Branch location decisions are critical and have a lasting impact.

Local government, planners and real estate advisors are a good source of demographic and development intelligence. The ideal branch footprint is likely not in a stand-alone building; consider mixed-use locations around community or transportation hubs. Long term leases are risky. Seek shorter terms to address changing needs and community development.

7. Technology for technology sake is not what staying relevant is all about

In-branch technology should deliver the brand and extend the credit union’s online experience. Technology should be inconspicuous and support, not distract, from the face-to-face experience that members are looking for when they come to a branch. Make technology adaptable and location-specific: consider a video teller and video conferencing in remote or under-serviced locations.


Our formula for a  successful Credit Union branch strategy starts with listening and understanding our credit union clients’ business: their customers,  brand and operational goals.  

Contact Christopher Pollard for a discussion about your branch network design strategy.

The RATIO team has provided architectural, interior design and planning services to credit unions for over 50 years.  Recent and ongoing financial service projects include the re-imagined Island Savings branch network, award-winning design on the downtown branch of Salmon Arm Savings & Credit Union, refresh of  Community Savings Credit Union’s brand and branch template. RATIO provides integrated consulting on all Vancity branches and the forward-thinking branch concepts for both Aldergrove Credit Union and First West Credit Union through their Envision Financial brand.

Want to read more?

Download RATIO’S Distinctive Thinking on Credit Union Branch Strategy

Financial Services: 18 design trends for retail branches


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