MORENO VALLEY, Calif. -- The transformation of the Moreno Valley area has seen more than a 26% rise in population between 1990 and 2003. With a 2005 U.S. Census Bureau report listing it as having the sixth fastest growth rate among large cities, Visterra Credit Union's original branch and headquarters, built in 1970, strained to handle the increasing business.
To serve its more than 39,000 members Visterra, with the help of BrandPartners, a provider of differentiated retail environments, erected a new $15 million, 17,000 square-foot branch and headquarters on 7.5 acres of land.
The branch entryway features a highly visible glass tower that is reminiscent of a flight tower. The credit union was founded 53 years ago as March Air Force Base Federal Credit Union to serve the large military population then in place at the local installation. A bridge-like structure with an exposed girder truss leads members to a greeter station and the main building.
The exterior was designed to resemble a retail store with a 30-foot-long window. The interior carries through the retail feel with boutique-like environments along a granite-paved main street lined with streetlights.
"We talked about how to make this branch a pleasant experience while keeping an openness and warmth," said Charlie Hale, vice president of marketing at Visterra. "We tried to take out that warehouse environment and make it much more personalized."
Among that personalization is a kid's zone complete with a play area and age-appropriate financial education information. Interactive kiosk pods were constructed with a go-cart design where members can sit and access the Internet.
"In California, everyone is enamored with their automobile," Hale said. "People like doing business from their cars. While others were closing drive-thru lanes, we saw a need to increase not only the tube-type access to a teller but also drive-up ATMs. We had one [ATM] at the time that was over-taxed at certain times of the week. What was built as an adjunct to the 17,000-square foot retail building was an expansion of the number of drive-thru lanes [from four to eight] and we added two more ATMs."
The automobile experience was showcased inside as well. To emphasize the CUs auto loan business, the interior features a side street leading to lines of business and a showcase zone, a circular area with a stage and curtain for displaying automobiles, RVs, motorcycles, and boats. A glass garage door allows for easy entry for display vehicles. On used car theme days, as many as eight cars can be lined up for display under an arbor in front of the garage door and extending into the branch. Several walls, which were built as millwork fixtures, serve as 3-dimensional facades.
"We were trying to create a consistent brand and feel throughout the space," explained Courtney Grover, executive vice president, managing director, design/build services at BrandPartners. "It's an extremely large branch but we wanted to create more intimate spaces within that 17,000 square feet. Those spaces can often talk about specific services that the credit union offers its members. By defining those spaces you're also defining the products and services."
It's also important to make the transaction portion of a member's visit as easy and accessible as possible. You want to get the member that is coming in to cash a paycheck and remove any obstacles--get them through the space quickly and easily, Grover said.
"A lot of people think of the grocery store philosophy of putting the milk in the back in hopes that people will buy more on their way back to get that milk," Grover added. "We want the member to know and experience what can be done for them but at the same time we're not going to put any obstacles in front of them. If you want milk, we're not going to make you jump through hoops to get it."
With the new branch open for business, Visterra is putting the finishing touches on renovations to its adjacent headquarters. The 25,000 square-foot administrative building will incorporate the brand architecture that is featured in its new branch.
"Our members are very, very happy," said Visterra's Hale. "I'm excited about the new community room that we can use for seminars. We added on to the employee lounge at the branch so that at night it can be accessible to the community. From a marketing perspective, I'm anxious to start those seminars and offer another service to the membership." --firstname.lastname@example.org