Credit Union members show the way to the Branch of the Future.
Chris Pollard wrote this on May 30, 2017

For credit unions, having a successful branch network means meeting members’ needs today and in the future. The ‘Branch of the Future’ is member-focused and can adapt to changing demographics and expectations. Anticipating how members will want to interact with their credit union will provide the solution for the Branch of the Future. Overcoming the disruption in the retail financial services sector requires insight and innovative thinking. Credit Unions have much to consider as they plan for the future.

The so-called Branch of the Future is not a singular response, but an integrated solution that is customer centric and community relevant for each credit union brand. The way to the Branch of the Future will be defined by the member.

Recently I attended the Central 1 Credit Union’s Momentum conference and participated on a panel titled the Branch of the Future. Some great discussion, ideas and questions were raised.

Here are  a few more thoughts on designing the credit union Branch of the Future:


•  Leverage the competitive differences credit unions have.

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.

•  The future is now for rethinking 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 a scalable branch design.

 Understand why people still want to come into branches.

Create an environment that serves relationship building. Face-to-face meetings are expected for higher value transactions like those aligning with life and business milestones. Where, why and when is in-branch privacy important?  Transactions such as mortgage, personal and business loans, wealth management and insurance.

 A 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.

•  Design for your members.

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

•  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.

•  Technology for technology sake is not what the Branch of the Future 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.

For us, the Branch of the Future is more than a change in decor. It is our understanding of business, brand, how to serve customers better, how to integrate technology in-branch in a customer-friendly way and how to create high-value transactions that allow us to create a path to the Branch of the Future.



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 Greater Vancouver Community Credit Union’s brand and branch template. RATIO provides integrated consulting on all Vancity branches and the forward-thinking branch concept for First West Credit Union through their Envision Financial brand.

Want to read more?

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Financial Services: 18 design trends for retail branches


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