Credit union branches are sprouting at a rate of almost 1,000 a year, but generally these are not the branches of small credit unions. With total office expenses rising 11.4% in 2006, even when credit unions outgrow their only branch, they find it very expensive to expand.
In June 2001, three credit unions had a ribbon cutting ceremony — at the same time and at the same location. Call Federal Credit Union ($257M in Richmond, VA) made this possible by opening a new branch in the nation’s first Credit Union Mall. As only credit unions would do, Call FCU, under the leadership of Roger Ball, invited two other smaller credit unions to share a new facility in Midlothian, Va. The invaluable expansion allowed both Connects Federal Credit Union ($64.4M in Richmond, VA) and Partners Financial Federal Credit Union ($59.5M in Glen Allen, VA, and named Richmond Federal at the time of the grand opening) to expand their reach and convenience with one affordable decision. The Credit Union Mall allowed Connects FCU and Partners FFCU to expand their operations with actual branch space, a luxury neither credit union had previously enjoyed.
How’d They Make it Work?
Once the concept achieved approval of the Board, Ball went forward with developing a facility that could accommodate his growing credit union and others as well. The innovative notion was further certified when Ball took a strategic path in choosing the right credit unions to share in the prime space. Money wasn’t the main issue as much as choosing credit unions that shared Call’s cooperative philosophy and spirit, enjoyed a solid reputation, and fit the bill for size.
The three credit unions also meshed well in regards to membership. All three had a distinct field of membership, but the FOMs do not overlap. “Members decide what’s best for them,” says Ball. “Our membership has grown at its normal – but very good — pace.” Ball focuses on the value of an added branch, and says that “If I’m not able to get to my members, I won’t be able to serve them.”
House Rules and Innovative Efforts
The CU Mall offers Partners FFCU and Connects FCU a shared space with separate entrances to each credit union branch. Inside the Credit Union Mall, the three cooperatives share a single security system, boardroom and kitchen.
Members go to their credit union’s individual drive-in lanes and teller lines. Partners and Connects pay a flat monthly rent in exchange for use of the facility, thus reducing Call FCU’s overhead expenses.
“Fun Stuff for the Summer” and other joint promotions have proven successful. The large property has even become a car lot at times with several coordinated efforts involving Enterprise Group Sales. But to maintain the noncompetitive spirit, the three credit unions do not post individual promotions outside of the building.
Yesterday, Today and Beyond
Credit Union Mall has provided an innovative and functional delivery channel to its resident. The mall has also made its services and locations an added feature and convenience to its growing membership. By advancing the credit union movement in this innovative way, Credit Union Mall has earned national recognition for being an example of the cooperative credit union spirit.