ERIE, Pa. – Step into Erie General Electric Federal Credit Union's latest branch and prepare for an under-the-sea experience. Using fish and waves to play up the idea that the new branch is a "wave of the future", it combines an aquatic theme complete with two fish tanks and the latest technology such as remote teller stations. "It was our CEO Gail Cook who came up with the idea of having live fish," said Erie General Electric FCU Marketing Manager Sandi Carangi. "We really believe that now is when credit union branches need to come up with the times so with this branch we knew that we wanted to do something really different that would also create a cozy, fun atmosphere." Building the theme around the aquariums, Architect Dean Giordano worked with design/build firm PW Campbell to further incorporate those elements in the branch. In addition to touches of deep blue throughout, the 3,269 square-foot facility features a reception area complete with life size banners of various credit union products and services; three remote teller stations; two member service representative offices; two loan offices; a conference room; a drive-thru ATM; three drive-thru lanes; and a check writing desk with a huge fish tank at each end. "Usually people associate a fish tank with a doctor's office," said Carangi. "So to emphasize that we are a credit union we made sure to create the colorful signage and strategically hang them from the ceiling with fishing line by the reception desk which is the first thing you see when you walk through the doors." According to Carangi, it was vital that the $927,000 branch have an open welcoming feel and to that end there are no ropes in front of the remote teller systems and the offices either have open doorways or glass to see into them. As for the main attraction, stools are kept next to the tanks for children and the fish are maintained by a local pet shop at a cost of $75 a month which includes replacements for any "casualties". Knowing that there may be an initial member resistance to the remote teller stations, Carangi decided to make the space more inviting by using the dividing walls to post marketing brochures with colorful fish. "Sometimes the stations can appear cold or intimidating, so in addition to having our receptionist ready to help walk members through their RTS (remote teller stations) visit, we decided the brochures encased in plexiglas would maintain the aquarium feel while providing members with something colorful to look at while they wait," said Carangi. "It worked out well because the dividing wall also helps with privacy, which is generally the concern with remote teller stations. To further maximize the stations we also run marketing messages, which are changed quarterly, on the screens." The new branch also shines the spotlight on the $76 million credit union's brand of not being a typical financial institution. "Part of our reputation is that members are always wondering what we will be doing next," said Carangi. "The member response has been phenomenal and they are telling whoever they can about our branch. The first week we opened the facility children were just drawn to the fish and now some have even named them." According to Carangi, the branch is not just great looking but also functional. Activity at the new branch has increased nearly 100% in just a few months and plans are underway to create a kids and teen club around the "fish" theme. [email protected]

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