At a time when consumer confidence in banks is low, the building of new branches can help reinforce the image that a credit union is not only stable but focused on growth.
"Our personal experience is that financial institutions don't develop relationships, it happens when members speak with staffers who are making that personal connection. We see the branch component as the physical touch point of the strategy for building awareness that can be very difficult if not impossible to do online or through just a Web-based format," said Jim Haack, CEO of design-build firm Momentum. "The future of the branch is healthy and institutions looking for that kind of deeper market credibility and capability are going to need to provide multichannel access to meet members' expectations of being able to do business through the channel that suits them best at any given time."
According to Haack, the key to creating a facility for the long term is going beyond the upfront investment in construction and assessing what the total cost of operations will be. That means taking into consideration not just the merchandising, equipment and energy costs but also current and future staff salaries and benefits. Taking a quantitative and qualitative approach, Haack said the total cost analysis can be divided into three parts, first an assessment of how staffers function in current facilities and identifying areas of efficiency or inefficiency. Then looking at growth target expectations to define space needs, and finally utilizing industry data to benchmark growth and design accordingly.
"Being able to benchmark where you want to be versus where you are long term in terms of investment, that is a piece that has been missing for a long period of time," said Haack. "No one likes to make a short-term decision, and it is more efficient and wise to have longer term plans. Using industry data to run scenarios to benchmark growth allows us to extrapolate out as far as possible."
He said as the credit union's input is fresh and molded right on the spot, the week-long process effectively maximizes the power of collaboration and produces a result that flows from the brand, culture and organizational needs of the credit union.
Having literally reached capacity at its current facility, a new headquarters was no longer a question of if but when at Golden Plains Credit Union.
"Our current facility was built in 1973 and, over the years, has had two additions," said Erich Schaefer, president of the Garden City, Kan.-based credit union. "Several years ago we leased additional space a short distance away. However, we have packed people in every available nook of that building, too. Literally, we can't hire one more person because we don't have a place to put them."
With growth at about 20% per year over the past two and a half years, Schaefer said both lobby and support staff is needed to support that growth. Given that the board and management had the foresight to purchase all of the additional properties on the existing block, the location was set for a new headquarters and branch.
"The biggest surprise for me has been the amount of time and energy to go through all the building details. We are building a 20- or 30-year building, and our building team isn't willing to leave anything to chance," said Schaefer.
Working with Momentum and branding specialists at Weber Marketing, the team created a two-story facility with 10 drive-up lanes that would visually expresses the credit union's success.
The new headquarters currently under construction will include a retail branch that features a caf? area for members and 24 offices for its member service and loan representatives. Once staffers move into the new building, plans are underway to level the existing facility to provide more member and staff parking.