Mid American FCU Branch Mirrors Local Flavor
A sprawling two-story Tudor might suggest that the Greens are up and coming professionals.
The Browns’ ranch with its large yard and the playground in the back could signal a young family with children lives there.
As far as Mid American Credit Union President/CEO Jim Holt is concerned, a credit union branch should also reflect the credit union.
“We need to think about branches not as facilities so much as identity, not just with members but with the community we think we’re serving,” Holt said. “Your identity is tied up with what they see of you and how they perceive you to be in the community. It’s not the branding per se, but it’s the idea that whether you like it or not you’ve got an identity.”
The question becomes who in the community is the credit union trying to reach –members, potential members or people who may never do business with you but with whom you have some kind of reputation?
Several years ago, the $121 million Mid American wanted to establish branches in nearly all of Wichita, Kan., its home base. However, the Wichita-based $222 million Cessna Employees Credit Union and the $27 million Catholic Family Federal Credit Union were also eyeing the southern part of town, Holt said.
They all agreed to work together and establish a branch at a former convenience store with a CUSO taking ownership. That meant three data systems and three loan officers. The teller staff toggled back and forth between data systems. Now, all the credit unions are on a shared branching system.
Another branch site that had been considered was at one of the busiest intersections in the city, which was scheduled for a new overpass and even more congestion. Holt said the location would not be inviting to members so Mid American sold that land.
The credit union actually bought the land for its newest $2.3 million branch ten years ago. Then the economy put the brakes on construction until about a year and a half ago.
After a few stalls and starts, the branch is prepping to open in November or December next to a general aviation facility, a good fit for Cessna Employees CU, which was founded in 1941 to serve the aircraft company.
There’s also a heavy traffic count from a major bypass and a busy north-south artery. Although the two other credit unions will again be involved, Mid American will own the building and hire the staff.
“Catholic Family is a small credit union,” Holt noted. “This will not only give them a site that does teller transactions, but we’re going to train our staff to handle their CDs, loans, account openings and whatever their members could do at the main office.”
The loan officer there will have to know three different credit union systems, Holt said. “It’s similar to the situation we had at the south site years ago. But for young people, it’s like learning a video game.”
Holt wants the facility to show the credit union is striving to go beyond expected service. While the exterior will have the usual drive-through lanes, one will be reserved for Savories, a pastry shop that will offer coffee and cheesecake, ice cream, brownies and scones. Inside the branch, members can sit down and enjoy their treats in an area that can seat 20 people.
It just made a lot of sense to find a lure to attract people to that location, Holt explained. Although he’s not a coffee drinker, he knows many people who begin every morning at Starbucks or a similar place on their way to work. Why not stop at your credit union, he figured, get some coffee and also take care of financial transactions?
Details are being worked out, but the Savories’ drive-in lane is likely to open earlier than the credit union’s usual business hours and remain open a little longer. Mid American may also consider giving Savories funds to buy cups with the credit union’s logo. Along with a cup of coffee, there might be a pamphlet handed out offering a quarter-percent loan discount.
“We’ll want to promote each other’s business without having to purchase mass media,” Holt said.
The biggest challenge with this new arrangement?
“Changing our service culture a little,” Holt said. “There won’t be the traditional teller lines. There will be pods with a couple tellers at each one, but they won’t be traditional tellers. They will be full-service member service representatives.”
Holt said the reps will meet people at the door, walk them over to a pod or what he calls a hotel office, which won’t be the office of any specific person but will be available for whoever needs service. From there, the rep will talk with the visitor about how the credit union can meet their need, be it a loan, a CD or assist with gaining entry into their safe deposit box, for instance.
Mid American management decided that culture change couldn’t be adopted at just one branch, Holt said. The entire credit union needed to be on board. To make that happen, employees started attended monthly training sessions in July. There will be a total of four sessions. Holt said the other two credit unions were invited so they could become familiar with how their members will be treated.
“We want to make sure this works. We may need a one-, two- or three-year timeline to find out if it’s really working or if the approach starts with a bang and slows down. We want to be certain it works well before we launch into anything else,” Holt said.
If the idea succeeds, Mid American will consider remodeling other facilities to make the approach easier. Thinking strategically, Holt said the next branch may be a virtual one aimed at members who don’t care if they ever set foot in a facility. He still believes there will always be members who will not be comfortable online.