Shared Branching In Times Of Need

Credit unions can use a cooperative approach to operations to help displaced members access their accounts.


Barely a week after Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the coastal Northeast region, a second powerful winter snowstorm slammed into New Jersey, New York, and parts of New England. Credit unions branches have continued their operations through the past few weeks despite inclement weather, power outages, downed data servers, and other significant losses. Their dedication to member service is a comfort to area residents who have come to rely on their cash reserves to cover emergency funds.

And how have members accessed their cash? ATMs are one way. Credit unions and banks recognize the importance of the ATM during evacuations and other times of crisis and have waived or refunded out-of-network ATM fees across hurricane-impacted areas.  Although waiving or refunding fees is a great courtesy to members, such a strategy creates extra work for a credit union that already is struggling with damage and power loss. 

Because of their cooperative structure, credit unions offer ways for members to access their cash anytime in ways that banks cannot. For example, if their credit union is part of a shared branching network, members evacuating from a natural disaster can use ATMs at any number of locations and institutions, thereby easing some of the stress of accessing emergency cash. This is a benefit whether the member is in the process of evacuating or displaced-but-sitting-tight at a safe location.

According to CUNA, the New Jersey Credit Union League reported that as of 5 p.m. on Nov. 2 — just days after Sandy made landfall — 41 of the state’s 66 shared branching outlets were operational. That's a 41-branch cooperative network the banks could not replicate.

Credit unions come together to donate funds and supplies to affected areas during times of disaster. Shared branching is yet one more way that credit unions give members piece of mind.


Nov. 14, 2012


  • Thought I would have more details on how the colaboration worked.
  • Shared branching and no fee ATMs are great. I went to Long Island this past week and was surprised to find two credit unions that were charging excessive fees ($5 is excessive to me) for ATM usage when I used another credit union's cucard. I guess shared branching doesn't mean shared ATMs. I ended up going to a 7-11 to avoid the fees.
  • One of the biggest obstacles that I think the credit union industry has to overcome is people's perception that we won't be anywhere they could ever need them like a Chase or BoA could be. This is just crazy bc with shared branching we actually offer more free atms than either of those institutions!
  • We feel shared branching is one of the best moves we ever made. Allowing other CU members to come to our branch offsets the cost of having our members go to other's a win, win.