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HOUSTON – Members of Community Resource Credit Union couldn’t wait for the official live date to conduct their financial business at shared branching facilities across the country. Community Resource Credit Union became the first Texas credit union this year to bring its shared branching program online through the Texas Credit Union Service Corporation (TCUSC) network, but even before the CU completed testing the system, members started using it to conduct transactions. “In mid-January, we sent out our newsletter announcing that our live date would be Feb. 1. Members didn’t wait, they started using the facilities right away. We had 90 transactions before our live date,” said Karen Langley, Community Resource executive vice president and chief operating officer. Community Resource CU (formerly Southwest Resource CU) saw shared branching as a way to provide added convenience to members outside their immediate service area. “Our members are so savvy to this and so ready for this. ExxonMobil is our base, so we have members all over the country. One of our affinity partners (SEGs) is a group of professional RVers. They’re also ecstatic about our new locations,” Langley said. “We knew it would be a good thing for members,” continued Langley. “It’s a great opportunity to add branches without the expense of brick and mortar. The ultimate goal of shared branching is to give members remote access to the credit union, but it also serves another important function – helping to retain members. Even if you tell them `Once a member, always a member,’ they think they need to close their account when they move away. As much as people love electronics, there are times when they still want a live person to conduct their financial business. Shared branching answers that need.” According to Langley, shared branching has also generated enthusiasm among credit union employees. “We received a community charter last year and are preparing to roll out our new credit union name and logo. Our marketing department is loving this, because they get to say, “We have over 900 locations!” Community Resource CU’s affiliation with the network brings TCUSC’s number of participating credit unions to 58. TCUSC has 83 locations (5 stand-alone service centers and 78 outlets inside credit unions) across the state. Texas credit unions opened 29 new shared branching outlets in 2002, more than any other state. As a member of the Credit Union Service Corporation national shared branching network, TCUSC currently offers participating credit unions a total of 959 locations in 36 states and four foreign countries. The first Texas shared branching facility opened in Houston in 1994, amassing 53,000 transactions its first year. In 2002, transactions numbered 1.4 million. Maritta Bush, senior vice president of TCUSC, expects the growth trend to continue. “I think credit unions are building shared branching into their strategic plans for future growth. They will put new branches where there are no shared service centers in order to extend their coverage. Joining a network doesn’t take away their uniqueness or their identity, it just expands their points of access,” she said. “Shared branching is a cornerstone of credit union service delivery, because today’s members are so diverse. I consider shared branching as essential as audio response, ATMs and Internet banking. Credit unions can’t be everywhere, but they can give service delivery alternatives to improve access for their members.” Credit unions taking advantage of shared branching in Texas typically have been $50 million and above in assets. Credit unions of this size are more likely to have out-of-state members within their fields of membership as well as the data processing systems required to participate in the network, Bush said. The TCUSC has set a goal of meeting with 150 prospective shared branching credit unions in Texas by the end of March. Even if upfront costs “which generally run $25,000-$40,000 and are largely associated with data processing interface” are high, they are generally less than those associated with building a branch office, Bush said. It takes about four months to bring a credit union on board in the TCUSC network, according to Bush. Initially, one of the largest deterrents to joining a shared branching network was credit unions’ fear of their members going into another credit union to conduct financial transactions and possibly deciding to join that credit union. Bush said, “It’s not an issue any more. Credit unions have found that it makes more sense to focus on service rather than on losing a member. It’s good for everyone.” “Better seated relationships with members” is the number one advantage shared branching gives credit unions, according to Credit Union Service Corporation spokesperson Craig Beach. CUSC, along with other regional networks Financial Service Centers Cooperative, Inc. and Service Centers Corporation, form the national credit union shared branching network. “Shared branching is the most affordable mechanism credit unions have to compete with banks,” Beach said. -

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