Tear Out the Teller Lines
The $536 million Community Choice Credit Union in Farmington Hills, Mich., has decided to do away with tellers – not in just one or two test branches but across its entire operation.
“This is part of a major strategic shift in how we saw technology,” said Tracy Cameron, vice president for retail delivery for the 53,000-member credit union in suburban Detroit.
Now, instead of expecting members to see the branches as their primary connection with the credit union and technology as a backup, Community Choice will view technologies such as mobile banking and online banking as its primary connection with members. Visits to the branch will be reserved for issues or questions that cannot be completed or resolved online, Cameron explained.
Community Choice doesn't even call them branches anymore, but member centers, Cameron said. To prepare for the transition, she said, Community Choice began doing away with teller positions five years ago, cross training existing tellers in other products and duties and aiming to develop them into personal advisers for credit union members.
The personal advisers can serve a multitude of different tasks, Cameron explained. Each will carry a notepad computer running the credit union's software as well as pouches that will let them accept deposits if members want to make a deposit to a person.
They will be able to instruct members how to use the personal service kiosks in the lobby for making deposits or payments or receiving cash. Personal advisers will also be able open member accounts, as well as guide members through loan applications, Cameron said.
“We really see our branches as places our members visit when they want guidance or advice on a product or a strategy,” Cameron said. “Or when they just feel more comfortable talking to a person about their options and not over a screen or in a phone call,” she said. “Branches will not be about transactions any longer, even though members will still be able to transact business at the branches.”
Cameron said training the personal advisers had taken a number of years and not all the former tellers had made the change.
Community Choice's new and redesigned branches will focus on an open feel with no teller lines. They'll be called member centers.
Roughly 65 tellers began the process but a few dropped out along the way, moving to different positions at the credit union or leaving to take jobs elsewhere. The ones who remained were paid more than they had been as tellers, usually about $4-$5 more per hour. They also participated in a small incentive bonus plan, but they haven't fully moved into the new positions yet because Community Choice still has teller lines for now, Cameron said.
“Community Choice member centers will look and feel like a place you want to gather − a place where you’ll feel comfortable spending time, whether it's to have a cup of coffee or learn about ways to improve your financial wellness,” the credit union said on a page of its website about the new branches.
Community Choice began in 1935 when its founders established it to serve the community of Redford Township. Over the years the credit union grew to eight branches, primarily through mergers, with another being built, Cameron explained.
The existing branches will be renovated and have additional space freed by tearing out teller lines and the personal advisers will really take on their additional responsibilities in the new spaces.
Here is an artist's rendering of the exterior of the credit union's planned new member center in suburban Northfield Township.
Cameron said Community Choice would also experiment with giving personal advisers’ additional authority once the new branches are opened. She said the credit union had not yet settled all the details, but personal advisers will be able to reverse overdraft fees in certain situations, for example, or take care of other account details without having to direct the member to another employee.
The new branch, located in Northville Township, will not have any teller lines built into it, Cameron said, adding Community Choice was aiming for a cross between a retail and financial feeling in the design. “We want the space to feel easy to use and understand,” she said.
“Traditional banking branches were constructed with physical barriers that made you less inclined to form relationships with staff,” the credit union wrote on its website about the new design. “Instead of waiting in a teller line, you’ll notice our member centers are barrier free. That's intentional; our team members want to form long-term relationships with each of our members so we can provide the kind of advice that helps them prosper.”