HOBOKEN, N.J. — So much for branches going the way of the dinosaur. Credit unions continued to outgrow their spaces in 2006 as many were either breaking ground or opening the doors to new headquarters.

This year also saw the revamping of branches as credit unions made sure to tie their brand identity into their design. To create more memorable member experiences, credit union spaces ranged from dynamic retail environments to featuring dialogue towers and becoming a true community resource by providing space for members to host conferences and training sessions. Mobile branches continued to gain popularity as part of disaster recovery plans.

“Going Green” became more than just an advertising slogan as more credit union branches gained Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (known as “LEED”), certification, as well as recognition for truly incorporating and living green practices as part of the way they do business.

Facilities experts agree that looking ahead to 2008 credit unions will look to create culturally sensitive and welcoming branch environments to reach out and better assist the often-underserved Hispanic community.

Unique branch experiences will also continue to be a branch focus well into next year; specialized services such as Wi-Fi hotspots and offering one’s own branded coffee are clearly becoming more of the norm. Greater branding efforts will further play up the CU membership distinction.

–mdigiovanni@cutimes.com