By Roy Urrico
After the $378 million Colorado Credit Union (CCU) purchased its new headquarters building in 2019 in Littleton, Colo., it set out to remodel the first-floor branch to accommodate an open floor concept. Implementing this new open concept was a strategic initiative. With increasing competition in the banking landscape, the credit union wanted to make its branches more modern and simpler in order to improve the experience for its 22,000 members.
“Members who are closing loans don’t want to be in the same line as people completing traditional teller transactions. We want to ensure members who visit the branch have a positive, convenient and efficient experience.” said Tracy Thompson, director of operations, CCU.
“We see the teller role evolving to become less transactional and more advisory oriented,” Dan Schneider, vice president of project, training and professional services, for Farmington Hills, Mich.-based CUSO Member Driven Technologies (MDT). MDT hosts the core and essential IT infrastructure for credit unions, such as CCU, which are critical to help enhance the branch experience. “We also serve as a strategic advisor to our clients, helping them evaluate and implement branch technology such ITMs (interactive teller machines).”
Transitioning from Tellers to Pod People
Thompson explained that CCU’s Littleton branch no longer has a traditional teller line. “We have created pods and consultation spots instead. Along with cross-training our employees, this open concept has created an interactive atmosphere that allows employees to consult comfortably with their members and to use the space more efficiently.”
Thompson added, “With this new model, our staff has become more collaborative, and teamwork has improved.” For example, if one employee is helping a member open a new account but needs to switch to help another member close a loan, another employee can seamlessly jump in and assist, reducing interruptions and wait times.
“Our employees are located in different stations throughout the branch, which allows the actual teller pods to be used strictly for deposit/withdrawals,” Thompson noted, adding this open-floor concept enables those transactional members to receive quicker attention while members with questions, account maintenance, new accounts, new loans, etc. obtain help at a consultation area.
Asked if the pandemic accelerated this transition, Thompson recalled “We opened our Littleton branch right before the pandemic so the limitations that were mandated delayed the transition rather than accelerating it.” She added, “This modern approach to in-branch banking allows a closer interaction between members and staff that was limited by distance requirements between individuals."
Schneider weighed , “While the tide was already shifting in this direction, the pandemic really challenged credit unions to strategically evaluate their physical footprints and determine how to optimize their presence and impact. The war for talent has also led to credit unions needing to rely more on branch technology to operate more efficiently.”
How Did MDT Help?
Thompson said MDT assisted with the implementation of new technologies such as cash recyclers, teller-use tablets that enable transactions to occur anywhere in the branch, and member-use tablets used while members wait for help. “These member-use tablets can access CCU’s webpage to view rates, products and services offered, location information, etc. They reduce wait time perception and offer members a more efficient way to utilize waiting time.”
Schneider pointed out because so much today takes place via digital self-service, when members come into the branch, they are often looking for personal, high-touch service or support. “This could look like help with a loan application or advice around managing finances. Branch technologies will play a vital role in evolving the role of the teller.”
Additionally, MDT serves as a strategic consultant and sounding board when credit union clients are making changes in the branch, said Schneider. “We also help ensure that whatever technology is selected tightly integrates with the core and other critical systems. If the integration is not seamless, the branch transformation won’t work as effectively.”
Tangible Results and Benefits
“Our members have really enjoyed the new branch model,” said Thompson. “We have an area with comfortable chairs, device charging stations and a fireplace where they can wait in a relaxed setting. We also display community involvement events along with articles and staff intros on wall monitors to help members feel informed and included.”
Thompson added the new model allowed the credit union to reduce wait times for members who need additional services, while also increasing staff efficiency as they are able to seamlessly rotate between stations to help members. “The open floor plan allows for scheduling efficiency by reducing the need to assign employees to different stations each day because they can rotate between stations with ease, requiring fewer employees each day.”
As part of its strategic growth plan Thompson said Colorado Credit Union plans to implement this open-floor concept at its other three branches — two downtown Denver locations, and Brighton, Colo.