While many credit unions are making investments to improve the quality of their virtual member interactions, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union is placing an emphasis on old fashioned, face-to-face communication.
The $1.6 billion, St. Paul, Minn.-based credit union is currently in the process of replacing its Roseville, Minn., branch with a new building designed to enhance member experience and comfort. The redesigned branch, set to open in October 2012, will include an open floor plan with 11 teller stations positioned throughout the center of the branch, each with its own teller cash recycler machine.
“We’ve had a presence in Roseville for many years and a strong, active membership base there,” said Tom Pechman, member advisor and business analyst for Affinity Plus FCU. “We know our members like coming into the branch, and we want to make them feel comfortable, whether they’re making a deposit or a withdrawal or discussing a car loan. The design for our Roseville branch will be different from our other branches, and while the space will be very open, it will also be very private.”
The new branch will be bigger, with more member advisers at work and additional drive-thru ATM lanes. At the individual teller stations, member advisers will make members a part of the banking process by allowing them a view of their computer screens and a desk area to sit at.
The branch will also include monitors displaying informational and marketing messages, a kid’s play area, a board game lounge and an upper-level meeting room that community members can access after hours, Pechman said.
He pointed out that while the branch redesign will help improve the quality of member service, the project should also encourage members to spend more time inside the branch.
“We don’t want the branch to just be a place where members have to go,” Pechman said. “We want it to be a place where they’ll want to hang out, play a card game and have a cup of coffee.”
NCR Corp., which Affinity Plus FCU established a relationship with through Anoka, Minn.-based financial services solution provider Case & Associates, will provide Affinity Plus FCU with 11 TCRs, which take deposits, dispense cash, act as miniature cash vaults and eliminate the need for teller cash drawers. The machines, each of which will be shared by two member advisers, are designed to interface with a credit union’s teller application through NCR’s APTRA Cash Connect software, NCR said.
According to NCR Vice President of Marketing Bob Tramontano, the key benefits of NCR’s TCRs are improved security, tighter control of cash and streamlined transactions at teller stations, all of which lead to better member service.
“The TCRs provide a level of security and trust,” Tramontano said. “They automate transactions and eliminate the need to go to the vault. Tellers can listen to their members better because they won’t become diverted by the transaction.”
He said the installment of TCRs allows Affinity Plus FCU to improve face-to-face communication thanks to assistance from technology.
“Affinity Plus is focusing on member interaction while allowing technology to be part of the experience,” he said. “The TCRs enable them to use technology and position them to provide a comfortable setting and a better member experience.”
Tramontano added that a high-quality branch environment holds business value for credit unions. Citing Forrester Research, he said 70% of financial institution revenue is generated in-branch, with 80% of all checking accounts and 72% of all savings accounts being opened in a branch.
The new branch is being built approximately 250 feet away from the current Roseville branch, Pechman said, which gives members an up-close view of the construction process when they exit the current branch. He shared a notable anecdote that demonstrates members’ appreciation for Affinity Plus FCU. During a ceremony that marked the installation of the last piece of structural steel for the new branch building, a group of members signed their names and wrote notes detailing their gratitude for the credit union directly onto the steel pole.
After doors open at the new Roseville branch, Pechman said the credit union hopes to see member growth due to an increase in referrals. He added that in-person experiences can be just as important to members as technology.
"We believe in creating a stronger credit union and member base through relationship building,” he said.