Planning, Strategic Focus Deliver HQs Built to Last
When it comes to building a new corporate headquarters credit unions need a little imagination.
"There is often a lack of imagination in the planning stage," said John Hyche, LEVEL5 senior vice president of strategic consulting/principal. "If I ask the head of accounting how many more people will you need in 10 years, they usually have trouble imagining the horizon beyond 24 months. With facilities you have to plan for a longer term future."
He added that if credit unions don't align their headquarter decisions with strategic goals it could lead to a potentially expensive mistake.
It has to be designed from the inside out and the building has to service the credit union beyond the immediate future," added LEVEL5 Executive Vice President/Principal Mike Colvin. "Making a short-term decision about the main office and then running out of space leaves the credit union not only having to build another but also in the position of determining how to get rid of the current facility. It is a very large expense, and you don't want to make a mistake that leaves you stuck for the next 10 years in an environment that is not able to facilitate business."
Colvin said the initial qualifier is still location.
Design Build Concepts Chief Operating Officer Gene Lock agreed, adding that what seems to be a boom in new credit union headquarters is actually just an anticipated part of the cycle. And the current economic depression has made it a great time to buy, said Lock.
"In terms of long-term growth now may be the best time for credit unions to really look at their retail strategy and move forward with plans for a new main office," said Lock. "With construction, materials and land acquisition costs so low, credit unions have an opportunity to act on their growth plans while getting a bargain."
Independent Federal Credit Union recently moved its headquarters to Anderson, Ind., which President/CEO Norm Getts said has been five years in the making. Recognizing that its previous location was in an area of abandoned GM factories and had poor visibility, the credit union commissioned a detailed demographic study to determine where the main office should be relocated.
"We are now on the Anderson bypass between Wal-Mart and Lowe's. It is the highest traffic pattern in the city or county," said Getts. "We knew if we were going to make this move, then the building had to stand out and be different than any other financial institution."
Not only is the facility the tallest building on the bypass, he said, but it features a concierge station and dialog pods in its branch that are unique in the area.
"Just putting up the sign that we were building in the area before even moving in, our web hits tripled and we grew 15% in the last year, so we know we're in the right place," said Getts.
Colvin said putting the time in at the planning and research phase is crucial to creating a main office that can house all departments under one roof but will run just as efficiently and accommodate staff needs through the next 10 years.
Having outgrown their former headquarters which was built in the 1980s, Lancaster, S.C.-based Founders Federal Credit Union staffers are enjoying their new space. Prior to the move, staff was scattered across four different locations.
With glass walls and lots of community space, the new headquarters is a mix of contemporary style and a nod to the credit union's historic ties to the Springs Mills.
The main floor lobby features a gallery housing an antique loom, similar to ones used in the Springs Mills, and The Colonel, one of the popular ride-along trains from the old Springs Park. Also the lobby includes a video wall depicting the credit union's story. An antique clock from the Lancaster Springs Mill nestled on the 27-acre campus further reinforces the credit union's roots in the area. Home to around 200 staffers, the 131,000-square-foot complex has sufficient space for expansion.
According to Founders FCU Senior Vice President for Community Relations/Marketing Nicki Nash, staffers are enjoying the amenities, which include an outdoor plaza for employee dining, a large natural area featuring a pond and an amphitheatre.