First Entertainment CU's New Branch Like a Page Out of Hollywood
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Don't expect to see Arnold Schwarzennegger and Maria Shriver driving up in their Hummer to make a deposit. And you won't find Winona Ryder standing at the counter waiting to make a withdrawal. Or Tom Cruise applying for a credit card. Or Meg Ryan seeking a low-interest...
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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Don’t expect to see Arnold Schwarzennegger and Maria Shriver driving up in their Hummer to make a deposit. And you won’t find Winona Ryder standing at the counter waiting to make a withdrawal. Or Tom Cruise applying for a credit card. Or Meg Ryan seeking a low-interest auto loan. That’s not to say, though, that you won’t see them at First Entertainment Credit Union’s newest branch on the so-called “Miracle Mile” in Hollywood. The only catch is they will be appearing on one of two 50-inch plasma screens located on the wall behind the tellers. The large flat screens are just one of the unique touches that First Entertainment employed when designing its ninth branch to appeal to its 55,000 members who are employed in the entertainment industry. In glitzy Hollywood, where image is often everything, First Entertainment’s branch in the Wilshire Courtyard on Wilshire Boulevard takes a page right out of a Hollywood script. “It’s all about the mood and the attitude of this branch,” explains Roy MacKinnon, vice president of branch operations and marketing. “This branch is unlike any other.” MacKinnon notes that the design of the 1,200-square-foot branch-as well as collateral material-was geared to the Hollywood crowd. “We have an affinity with the industry, “MacKinnon says. “It’s just part of our positioning and branding.” Catchy and humorous slogans adorn both print media and wall displays and are designed to play off of the entertainment industry and LA cliches. “Are those real?” asks a display on one wall. “How many times a day do you hear that in LA?” asks MacKinnon with a grin. Other displays use such Hollywood catch phrases as “It’s a wrap” and “Have your people call our people.” “Fire the Shrink,” reads the cover headline on a brochure promoting an unsecured loan. “Peace of mind just got cheaper.” Inside the brochure is this message: “The loan’s okay, you’re okay. Now how about a hug?” “What does this have to do with the entertainment industry?” MacKinnon asks rhetorically. “Well, I don’t know about the entertainment industry in Omaha, Neb., but in LA everybody is in therapy especially if you’re in the entertainment industry. “That’s so LA,” he adds smiling. Not everything in the branch follows the Hollywood theme concept “but I would like a lot of our work to be entertainment related because that’s who we are,” MacKinnon says. One of the most unusual features at the branch is the two plasma screens, one of which displays a feed from E! Entertainment Television, the 24-hour network with programming dedicated to the entertainment industry. E! Entertainment is a major tenant in the Wilshire Courtyard, a two-building, 1-million-square-foot campus where the credit union is located. About 80% of the tenants in the complex are entertainment-related companies, MacKinnon estimates. Among them are Spelling Entertainment, the Variety publishing group and Western Initiative Media Worldwide. The other plasma screen displays 30-second commercials for First Entertainment. In the future, MacKinnon would like to be able to play movie trailers for upcoming motion pictures on the screens. “I’m pretty positive that out of the 11,000 or so credit unions across the United States that we’re the only credit union that has dual 50-inch plasmas up on the back wall, especially showing E! Entertainment,” he says. MacKinnon readily admits the First Entertainment isn’t the first credit union to come up with a unique branch design. “There is some real innovative stuff going on in credit union branches and I love all of that,” he says. “I think it`s great that credit unions think outside the box and do things other than just build a new teller counter. I don’t know that the plans always have to be grandiose. But every time a credit union does something different, I think it`s great for the movement.” Other touches in the branch, which officially opened Oct. 16, include thermal receipt printers and a large curved glass display etched with the First Entertainment name. Fiber optics stream light onto the display, creating a soft glowing effect with changing colors. The branch is conveniently located on the first floor of the building. Large floor to ceiling windows make it highly visible. “The branch is pseudo-futuristic and pseudo-cutting edge,” MacKinnon says. “It’s got all these unique things that you don’t typically see in a financial institution lobby.” How many credit unions, for instance, have a trendy iMac computer in the lobby for members to access their accounts or to simply surf the web while on a break, he asks. There are also the little touches, like the architectural details at the counters that MacKinnon says could easily be the First Entertainment logo. He notes that future branches or remodels of existing facilities could utilize some of the same features but much would depend on where the branch was located, the marketplace it serves and “the potential to influence business.” “I do think the lessons we learn here as we go along, we will take the ones we like and incorporate them into future branch build outs,” he says. The new Hollywood branch, he says, is expected to become First Entertainment’s fourth or fifth producing branch within its first year of operation. “Not only is there transaction growth, there is membership growth,” he reports. Those members come from more than 750 companies in the entertainment industry that the credit union serves. Those members work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, or as MacKinnon describes them, “everybody who produces the magic behind the camera.” Those who produce magic in front of the camera can belong to AFTRA-SAG Federal Credit Union. MacKinnon notes that First Entertainment initially had no plans to open the Wilshire Boulevard branch but that changed after the credit union was approached by representatives of the Wilshire Courtyard. The location, MacKinnon says, could not have been more perfect. With branches already in Santa Monica, Burbank and Culver City, the Miracle Mile location was “our proverbial dark hole in our branch network,” he says. “Almost to the mile this (branch) is dead smack in the center of that triangle of branches,” he explains. “So when we got an opportunity to place a branch here, it was a logical choice . . . It just seemed a natural fit.” First Entertainment began life in 1967 when it was founded with $40 on a sound stage by employees of Warner Bros. Studios. Then known as Warner Seven Arts Federal Credit Union, the institution over the years underwent a series of name changes and mergers (with Columbia Studios Employees CU; Screenland/MGM Employees CU; A&M Records Employees FCU; Six Flags Employees FCU; Las Vegas Credit Union). It was renamed First Entertainment in 1984 to better reflect its role within the entertainment industry. “If it’s entertainment based, we serve it,” MacKinnon says. Even though he doesn’t get to see such Hollywood talent as Schwarzennegger, Shriver, Ryder, Cruise or Ryan come walking into the credit union, MacKinnon isn’t complaining. “This whole branch is so much fun,” he says. -
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