LAWTON, Okla. – Through good credit union cooperation and “aggressive marketing,” it is no surprise that shared branching, through six stand-alone facilities, has long enjoyed robust growth in this state. In fact, Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation for shared transaction volume in the Credit Union Service Corp. network. But early next year the shared landscape moves into what is being described as “an exciting new phase”-sharing of existing CU branches, a phenomenon that may be common elsewhere but holds new promise for future sharing growth in this state. “We think this approach is an ideal way to service our members and avoid losing them to banks that could steal them,” explained Bill Buehne, president/CEO of the $65 million Lawton Teachers Federal Credit Union, which is first in the state to consider linking its branches here to CUSC as a shared facility. Buehne estimates the cost for the system conversion at about $25,000 and expects a final decision on the project this week. If implemented, service would start some time in the first quarter of 2002. Also considering a shared conversion for its two branches is Oklahoma Health Services Federal Credit Union in Oklahoma City. Top executives from that CU were in Texas last week looking at shared facilities in that state. The Oklahoma Credit Union League acknowledged that while shared growth has shown healthy increases over the years, it only recently has “plateaued” as saturation campaigns to inform members of the service have wound down. In 2000, transaction volume on the six stand-alone facilities, most of them located in metropolitan Oklahoma City and Tulsa, jumped nearly 37% from the prior year; 1999 showed a 34% increase over 1998. But in 2001, the increases dropped to 8.6% and dropped even further after Sept. 11. Still the League and other CU executives are optimistic that “lean operations and good locations” coupled with aggressive promotion by some of the largest CUs in the state with a national presence, including Tinker Federal Credit Union, FAA Employees Credit Union both of Oklahoma City and 66 Federal Credit Union of Bartlesville, have helped spur shared facilities. David Douglas, senior vice president of the League, said the state got into the stand-alone field in 1996, and its newest facility is only two-years old. “But the concept has worked especially well in Oklahoma City, one of the most expansive communities in the country from a geographic standpoint,” said Douglas. But the lack of access to the stand-alones has been a problem to Lawton Teachers, located in the southwest part of the state, said Buehne, adding that is why his CU has seriously considered moving ahead to share its branches under CUSC. “We think the sharing idea could be the wave of the future,” said Buehne. Matthew Stratton, vice president of the $1 billion Tinker FCU, the state’s largest credit union, said Tinker has long been a strong backer of the shared concept considering 25% of its average monthly transactions are done at a shared facility. Moreover, a third of all the transactions that occur at the four stand-alone facilities in metro Oklahoma City are from Tinker members. – [email protected]

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