Brand Confidence Begins at the Branch

Brand Confidence Begins at the Branch

In a recent article Credit Union Times article entitled, “How Credit Unions Should Think about Improving the Member Experience,” guest contributor Joseariel Gomez made some excellent points regarding member experience.

In the article, Mr. Gomez, Founder and CEO of Shastic — a provider of Robotic Processing Automation for banking — discusses the importance of selecting the right technology tools for optimizing service to members. He also posed a compelling question when he wrote, “The demand for member-experience-improving solutions is undeniably high, but are credit unions using the wrong strategy to improve their members’ user experiences?” Now keep that query in mind for a moment while I reflect on the credit union industry and an existential threat potentially facing it.

A Crisis of Confidence

Thanks (re: no thanks) to SVP, First Republic, Signature Bank and others, individuals and thousands of small and mid-size companies are wondering if their money is safe. Is their bank viable? Will it and their money be around next year or next month?

Heck, even next week?

Not surprisingly, this question of bank sustainability is a potential boon for Fintech’s and yes, crypto. Following the recent bank-failure debacle, Devin Partida who covers cybersecurity and business technology wrote, “more customers are becoming increasingly skeptical of keeping all their money in one place. FinTech firms offering alternative banking solutions could see a spike in business as a result.”

Bottom line: More deposits in Fintechs and cryptocurrency = less deposits in banks and credit unions.

Mr. Gomez is a leading expert in banking technology interfaces and I concur with his assessment regarding the importance of continually optimizing technology to improve member experiences. And there’s another experience that must be continually improved as well – the one that begins at the branch door. I’m referring to the physical and aesthetic quality of the branch itself. And for the credit union industry that experience is more important today than ever.

I say this because, as opposed to many retail bank customers (and certainly Fintech users), credit union members tend to be somewhat older and more conservative. They bank with credit unions for several reasons – a major one being peace-of-mind and the relationship that has been built over years if not decades.

Members want to know that their money is safe. That their saving and loan rates are better than most banks. That they are personally recognized by the branch staff that serves them. And they want to feel confident that their credit union is fully committed to its members and its business as a whole.

Let me also add that the underserved in LMI markets do not typically turn to Fintechs which makes branches even more vital pillar in low socioeconomic communities.

Your Branch is Your Brand

The quality of your branches sends that message of strength and commitment: How they are maintained and updated both inside and out. The look and quality of the furnishings, flooring, paint and wall coverings, lighting, signage, walkways and parking. The offices and cubicles where members are met with and served. The access and quality of the ATM’s and ITM’s.

It may seem basic, but the physical location and quality of your branches sends a clear and powerful message about your credit union to members and prospects alike. Anything that presents less than pride, strength and quality is a liability and needs to be addressed.

To be sure, from end-to-end, technology is vital. But today, with so many wondering about the viability of their banking institutions, sending a message of strength and quality at the front door is more important than ever.

Corey A. Waite is a leading commercial real estate advisor to the financial services industry. As Founder and CEO of Rubicon Concierge Real Estate Services, Corey works directly with senior executives coast-to-coast to deliver strategic plans and transactional services focused on optimizing the needs of employees, clients and members.

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