Two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic began and credit unions nationwide closed their branches to comply with shutdown orders, one of the many questions we asked was, is this the beginning of the end for the brick-and-mortar credit union branch? Will this temporary pivot to digital-only banking make consumers realize there’s no need to visit a physical branch, leading credit unions to shut locations permanently and eliminate onsite service positions?

The answer to those questions has been a clear no.

According to NCUA data, in December 2019, there were 22,015 credit union branches operating in the U.S. Fast-forward to December 2020, and that number had fallen to 21,566. In September 2021, the number crept back up to 21,690, and in December of last year, it stood slightly below that at 21,652. While credit unions have shaved a few hundred branches off the industry’s total count during the pandemic, any big changes to branch numbers reported by individual credit unions seemed to be largely the product of mergers, according to an analysis by our reporter Jim DuPlessis.

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Natasha Chilingerian

Natasha Chilingerian has been immersed in the credit union industry for over a decade. She first joined CU Times in 2011 as a freelance writer, and following a two-year hiatus from 2013-2015, during which time she served as a communications specialist for Xceed Financial Credit Union (now Kinecta Federal Credit Union), she re-joined the CU Times team full-time as managing editor. She was promoted to executive editor in 2019. In the earlier days of her career, Chilingerian focused on news and lifestyle journalism, serving as a writer and editor for numerous regional publications in Oregon, Louisiana, South Carolina and the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, she holds experience in marketing copywriting for companies in the finance and technology space. At CU Times, she covers People and Community news, cybersecurity, fintech partnerships, marketing, workplace culture, leadership, DEI, branch strategies, digital banking and more. She currently works remotely and splits her time between Southern California and Portland, Ore.

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