Never Far Away

Remote deposit services extend an $8 million credit union’s reach.


Being a small business has plenty of advantages. You can be nimble; you can adapt quickly to change; you can emphasize to customers that they aren’t just a number. Being small is even better when you have big friends.

California Center Credit Union ($8.1M, Ontario, CA) is small, but that doesn’t mean it has a short reach. To serve its 1,641 members, the credit union offers an array of remote services via partnerships with larger companies such as CO-OP, Wescorp, FSCC Shared Branching, and the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues.

“We do things that most credit unions our size don’t do,” says Linda Pettit, CEO and CFO at CalCenter. From shared branching to imaging ATMs, CalCenter offers delivery channels that make life easy for members. One of the credit union’s shared branching kiosks is located at the Wescorp headquarters and features a full-service ATM with image capture and deposit services. Another ATM, located at the credit union’s main branch, has the same capabilities.

For Pettit, the imaging services are a critical part of maintaining technological relevance with members.

“It’s going to be essential to compete with banks,” she says.

The service also represents an opportunity to accommodate small business owners. If these merchants can capture their credit card payments remotely, convenience skyrockets, Pettit says.

Remote services offer several advantages, but the investment required can be significant. A credit union should consider the nature of its membership when deciding whether to pursue that avenue. If a credit union wants to overcome member relocation in the interest of a long-term relationship, then remote deposit services have an obvious benefit, Pettit says.

Pettit suggests completing a thorough cost-benefit analysis. For example, a credit union that wants to offer remote capture — at a cost of, say, $35,000 annually — must consider how many relationships it can deepen with that service. For a small credit union, the investment likely has a smaller return, which could make the service infeasible. But for credit unions with assets topping $100 million, the return-on-investment could be worth it.

Once a credit union decides to offer remote services, it must also develop a way to mitigate risk. CalCenter, for example, has a thorough review process.

“We do not give immediate credit where we can,” Pettit says. “Anything that’s image-captured, we review daily.”

The credit union reviews deposits once before noon and then again toward the end of the day.

CalCenter has a handle on remote services; still, even this credit union has questions regarding the best mobile banking strategy.

“The problem is there are too many players,” Pettit says. The credit union doesn’t want to jump in just for the sake of doing so, so it will wait to make an investment until the market has thinned and calibrated.

Even with the credit union’s breadth of remote service offerings, Pettit still interacts with members regularly. “We have this membership that is very high-touch,” Pettit says.

Members might not physically enter the branch, but they frequently call for transaction information or to ask general questions. With just four employees, CalCenter can be a busy place, but Pettit doesn’t mind.

“Try calling a bank and see if someone picks up the phone,” she says. The financial world might be moving forward technologically, but the fundamentals of the credit union movement aren’t going remote just yet.




Dec. 13, 2010


  • Good to have first hand experience from another credit union already utilizing remote capture.

    Thank you.