WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Credit unions continued to outgrow their spaces in 2006 as many were either breaking ground or opening the doors to new headquarters.
The year also saw the revamping of branches as credit unions continued to tie their brand identity into design. To create lasting member experiences, credit union spaces ranged from dynamic retail environments and an exclusive "club" feel to featuring dialogue towers or hosting coffee shops as a way to foster better member relations.
Credit unions also looked to open branches in areas where many big bankers had abandoned. In response to the disasters of 2005 some credit unions invested in sophisticated mobile branches that could be lent to other credit unions in need or used as part of the credit union's own disaster recovery efforts to get branch services up and running as soon as possible.
Looking ahead, some facility firms have turned their design eye inward as they refresh their own brand image heading into 2007.
Also look for more niche or culturally driven branches. For example, IBT's partnership with financial service solutions provider El Banco Financial Corporation is designed to help credit unions better serve the growing Hispanic community. The idea is to help credit unions offer relevant products/services needed by the often-underserved Latino market and create culturally sensitive and welcoming branch environments.
Facilities experts agree that creating a unique branch experience will continue to be the focus of branches well into the next year and with that expect a shift in the type of staffer manning the branches. More credit unions will be looking for personality and sales experience over technical skills that can be taught since the "order taking" days are over. In addition to dialogue towers, credit unions will also be adding specialized services such as Wi-fi hot spots for members to use or even offering their own branded water--all in efforts to play up the distinction that membership offers. --email@example.com