MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Ascend Federal Credit Union has taken its branches to new heights with its latest branch.
Teaming up with St. Louis-based design/build firm NewGround, the credit union's new branch prototype is both a nod to Ascend FCU's roots and its future.
Formerly known as AEDC FCU, the credit union was formed in 1951 to serve the employees of Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base. Today the credit union serves members in more than 600 companies, and when a two-year study revealed that many potential members thought they had to work at Arnold Air Force Base to join, it was time for a name change.
The name Ascend was selected to better reflect the credit union, the companies it serves, and the direction it is headed.
Using the theme of "taking flight," NewGround created a facility that plays up the credit union's brand promise of "raising possibilities" for members.
Ascend's brand was infused into the branch through the use of aircraft materials such as parachute fabric, soffits and metal rivets. Backlit wing canopies fly over teller stations, and digital signage is utilized in a series of screens that embody runway lights with messages snaking across screens. NewGround took every opportunity to incorporate aeronautical imagery throughout the branch--even the exterior is reminiscent of an air traffic control tower.
"It is not only a great design element but with the billboard signage against the glass that faces the main road it is eye candy for those passing by and at night it provides 24/7 advertising and again the shape itself is unmistakable for any other financial institution," said NewGround Retail Planner Kathryn Brucker.
The state-of-the-art facility also features teller pods, a concierge station, an online banking center, children's area, a coin counter and more.
"This prototype branch is definitely more of a sales and service culture that encourages more conversations with members rather than the traditional role as order takers," said Ascend Director of Marketing Kim York. "It is all part of our way to try to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. So many financial institutions offer the same products and services that we've focused on building better relationships with our members and our new name, brand and culture help sets us apart."
With an eye on building more of an open dialogue with members, York says the pods add another dimension in creating memorable experiences.
"The pods were a first for our members and employees and it is hard to say who likes it more," said York. "By removing that barrier of a traditional teller line and working side by side with members we've created a more member friendly environment that is more conducive to conversation and really learning our members' needs."
Another first was the children's area, which York says not only reinforces a family friendly environment where parents can do their banking in peace,
but also ties into the credit union's new youth initiative slated for launch later this year.
"We have a diverse group of members so whether a construction worker with dirt on his feet or a PHD scientist from the base and everything in between it was important to us that the moment they step into the branch they all feel welcome and comfortable," said York. "And what is great is that the colors, textures and open feel of the space reflects that warm, inviting environment."
As its signature branch, York says plans are underway to renovate and incorporate elements of this branch into all of Ascend FCU's existing branches.
"We want all our facilities to be easily recognizable even without the signage," said York. "Our members and employees just love the new environment and have really embraced the new brand culture."