HOUSTON – S&S Credit Union is turning its main office into a shared branching outlet in hopes of recouping a portion of the up to $3,000 in monthly expenses the credit union is spending on its members’ use of shared branching facilities all over the country. In becoming a shared branch, the credit union can serve guest members of other credit unions participating in the Credit Union Service Center network, and thereby generate fee income on the transactions. Previously an “issuing” credit union only, S&S Credit Union members could use any of the 1,022 shared branching facilities currently part of the CUSC network, but members of other CUSC participant credit unions could not perform transactions at S&S Credit Union branches. Since joining the shared branching network as an issuer about a year ago, Craig Rohden, credit union president and CEO, said members have embraced the service in a big way. Stewart & Stevenson, the credit union’s original sponsor company, is a large industrial manufacturer that has facilities “all over the world.” Credit union members who work for the company now have instant access to service centers in 39 states and five foreign countries through the shared branching network. Rohden said monthly transactions number between 2,000 and 3,000, and heaviest member usage occurs in California, Louisiana and New York. While the process of becoming an “issuing” credit union was “somewhat cumbersome,” according to Rohden, because of the technology upgrades required, becoming an “acquiring,” or outlet, credit union didn’t involve much more than “flipping a couple of switches.” The move was simple to justify, Rohden said. The credit union has a new facility that is being underutilized. When its primary sponsor moved to a new location, the credit union, formerly housed within the sponsor’s facility, decided to lease a separate building several blocks away. Currently, only an estimated 30% of the branch’s monthly transactions are conducted in its lobby; the remaining 70% are conducted electronically or by other means. Rohden is not expecting an influx of traffic from S&S members when the credit union begins functioning as an outlet, but rather is expecting to draw in members from other credit unions. “S&S has a big lobby, a good location close to downtown that is easily accessible from all the major freeways in Houston, and drive-through lanes,” Rohden said. “We are not anticipating to profit on the fee income, but rather to offset the expenses of being an issuer.” S&S CU has assets of almost $20 million and nearly 5,000 members, with an average of 100 new accounts being opened each month. In addition to its main office, the credit union has a branch inside one of its select employee group facilities that is not accessible to the public. “We recognize that in order to compete, we have to have more locations,” Rohden said. Although a relatively small credit union, S&S has been fairly progressive in its technological offerings. Services include home banking, electronic bill payment and debit cards, among others. “We are a small credit union, but we think big. We have gone the extra mile to offer members all services, so they don’t have to go anywhere else,” said Rohden. “In today’s economy and market, you have to have all delivery options available to members to compete. We think shared branching is a very critical delivery option.” [email protected]

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