From left, Hawaii State FCU’s Aaron Vallely (SVP, retail experience and operations), Ish Eustaquio (SVP, retail banking division) and Ryan Hirata (vice president, marketing manager) at the new Kapahulu Branch at Safeway in Honolulu. (Photo: The Element Group)

A well-designed credit union branch can certainly evoke awe among visitors, but investing in brick and mortar is about much more than aesthetics. The physical branch impacts brand development, member growth and loyalty, operational efficiency and revenue – and more credit unions are finding that to stay competitive, they must deliver exceptional in-person experiences that demonstrate their ability to stay on top of cutting-edge technology while continuing to provide the personal touch they’re known for.

One recent example of the industry’s effort to upgrade its spaces is a partnership between LEVERAGE (the League of Southeastern Credit Unions’ for-profit service corporation) and The Element Group, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based firm that designs and implements retail branches and headquarters facilities for financial institutions. As a result of the partnership, credit unions nationwide can work with LEVERAGE’s business development consultants and Element to bring their branch modernization visions to life.

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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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