A new perspective has been making its way through business circles recently. Businesses are increasingly seeing that "the world is flat" and that "global" is now often "local" due to an ever-expanding corporate reach. This perspective has found its credit union incarnation in the form of shared branching.
Shared branching at its essence is credit unions' effort to provide services to members even after they are long past the reach of their own credit union's traditional brick-and-mortar branches. One of the long-time supporters of shared branching has been Arrowhead Central Credit Union ($1.1B, San Bernardino, CA). "We have been a part of shared branching for about as long as FSCC has made it available" says Ken Facer, a Senior Vice President at Arrowhead.
According to Facer, Arrowhead greeted shared branching with open arms because they saw it as an opportunity to provide increased services for their members. It also allowed the credit union to compete with larger banks that were previously out of their reach. "Arrowhead can never have more traditional branches than someone like Bank of America, but with shared branching we can level the playing field," says Facer. Arrowhead is able to use shared branching to offer its core services to its members whether they are across the state, or across the country. "Anywhere there is a credit union that is part of the shared branching network, our members have the opportunity to conduct their business."
Member & Credit Union Benefits
After joining the network, Arrowhead benefited not only by providing increased availability to their members, but they also saw financial gain. Similar to ATM transactions, a small fee is assessed anytime a non-member uses the credit union's services. This fee-based income has been a key component of Arrowhead's business strategy. In recent years this income has been a driving force behind Arrowhead's ability to expand its branch network. "The cost is so minimal that with the small fee per transaction, the process pays for itself in practically no time at all and everything above that is gravy."
Arrowhead has also seen the benefits of shared branching in terms of member throughput. Previously, most credit unions in the area were closed on weekends as the costs of remaining open did not justify the amount of business that took place. "Now," says Facer, "with shared branching, it is financially viable for us to stay open on weekends. The increased transactions from our own members, coupled with transactions from other credit union members, afforded us the ability to provide services to members on Saturday."
Providing Local Service Globally
According to Facer, credit unions are merely looking out for the best interests of their members when deciding to become a part of the shared branching network. The reaction at Arrowhead has been extremely positive ever since inception. "The key is to make members feel comfortable and welcome. In many cases the members begin to think of other branches in the network as mere extensions of ‘my credit union'." Indeed, the availability of "local" credit union services on a "global" scale can go a long way to increasing overall member satisfaction.
The benefits are there, whether you chose to focus on the credit union's increased fee income, or more importantly, the increase of convenience for the member. "It all comes back to serving the member, which is what we are here to do" says Facer, "Your members don't only need your services when they are in your backyard."