WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – When it comes to facilities, credit unions shook up the “old-fashioned CU” myth as they used branches to show off their individuality and brand identity. Credit unions continued branching out at a breakneck speed in 2004 reaching a total 19,377 branches as of September 30, 2004 according to Callahan and Associates. Wanting the branch to be more than just another member convenience, credit unions broke ground on facilities that created experiences that left members talking long after they left the branch. The move is a smart one. A Datamonitor report entitled Branch Renewal in U.S. Retail Banking, finds that not only will more financial institutions transform the role and layout of branches but they will also leverage the face-to-face nature of branch interaction in a bid to increase member value. With the competition building more and more branches this year, some credit unions turned to a design/build technique dubbed “component building” to level the playing field. Here is how it works: the core and shell of the facility is built off-site in a controlled environment factory. The components are then transported to the desired location, lifted by cranes and assembled complete with finishing touches within six months or less. The branches are freestanding, can include ATMs or drive-thru’s and can range in size from 3,000 to 14,000 square-feet. As far as branch interiors, warm, inviting, retail environments continued to take center stage, and credit unions explored traditional teller line alternatives such as remote teller stations or “dialogue towers” that can be accessed by any credit union staffer to process transactions. In addition, with an eye on member comfort and flow, branches feature everything from coffee/Internet areas or play zones to CU “stores” where members can purchase branded items like piggy banks or binoculars. Spaces also included community rooms, atriums or ponds for members and employees alike to enjoy. 2004 also marked tech advances with more credit unions incorporating kiosks, plasma screens and even automated queing systems to make members’ wait time more productive. A mix of biometrics and “man traps” also seemed to be the identification/security solution of choice. Here’s a look at a few 2004 facility snapshots:

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