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WATERFORD, Mich. – A mobile branch concept, but without wheels, is helping BestSource Credit Union reach out to members at Target, Marshall Field and Mervyn’s stores throughout southeastern Michigan and even Chicago. Instead of driving a converted van from location to location, BCU is working with local stores to arrange desk space. A credit union representative shows up on the appointed date, plugs in a laptop and computer, and is ready to handle business. BCU was chartered in 1954 as Hudson’s Employees CU, serving J.L. Hudson department store employees. Hudson, long a familiar image to Michigan residents, eventually became part of Minneapolis-based Dayton-Hudson Corp. Still later the company’s Target stores became such a dominant contributor to the bottom line the company was renamed Target Corp. Recently the Hudson name was stripped from the Michigan stores in favor of the Marshall Field logo, another Target Corp. acquisition. For BCU, this has meant a growing pool of actual and potential members. The question has been how to reach them and make the credit union convenient. “We’re operating them (mobile branches) on a limited scale right now,” BCU CEO John Normandeau says. “The idea really came out of our strategic planning. We’ve established it as a way to get closer to our members and potential members.” The desk-and-laptop approach is also intended to help the credit union deal with other changes in retailing as department stores compete with discounters and others. For example, Eastland and Northland malls in suburban Detroit used to boast huge flagship Hudson stores in the 1970s and 1980s. BCU maintained branches there, some five days a week. “Today it’s not that same way. So what we’re doing is redeploying some of our people resources. Eastland was a five-day cash operation. We’ve reduced it to two days. Northland was a non-cash operation three days a week. We’ve reduced that to one day a week,” Normandeau says. “There are probably four other major stores we’re going out to on a consistent basis. We’re going there with a laptop and a printer. We’re getting a desk or a table. We’re able to open accounts, print out documents such as credit reports and conduct business. We don’t have cash with us, but we do everything else.” It’s a major step forward from the days when the credit union sent a representative out to a Hudson store with a fistful of brochures to place on the lunchroom table. That rep wasn’t able to open accounts. Today’s technology can make the visit more productive for both the member and BCU. Each morning the stores hold staff meetings to review budgets and sales. The credit union becomes part of those meetings. The number one push is the convenience and security of direct deposit into a checking account. Representatives also work directly with members to help them enhance their credit scores and qualify for better interest rates. “We’re doing the same concept in Chicago,” Normandeau says. “The stores aren’t quite as spread out there. We have two people designated there, and two people in Michigan. Last week we went to the Kalamazoo (Marshall Field) store (in western Michigan) and picked up five new accounts, four with direct deposit checking. “We’re trying to make inroads and are laying the groundwork to go out to Target stores. We’re not quite as successful in doing that yet. We just don’t have that long-term relationship. In addition there is actually a Target credit union in Minneapolis.” Convenience rules in today’s marketplace, Normandeau notes, and BCU is trying to demonstrate they are everywhere, including the National Shared Network and Service Centers. There’s also a call center that handles 16,000 calls a month. Eventually BCU hopes to conduct seminars during the in-store visits. The sessions could cover topics such as budgeting, investments and buying a first home. Perhaps the same seminar would be held twice to fit the schedules of employees reporting for different shifts. “If we can get three or four at one session, then five or six at another, that’s great,” Normandeau says. -

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