Tech Time: Tablets, ATMs and Open Branch Design Improve the Member Experience

Credit Union of the Rockies redesigned retail branch space
By Randy Mims

5 minutes

Removing traditional branch barriers has allowed Credit Union of the Rockies staff to move freely and deliver personalized service more efficiently.

At Credit Union of the Rockies, our main focus has always been to provide our members with the best possible banking experience. While this goal hasn’t changed, member expectations have. Consumers today demand a seamless, convenient, personalized experience from all companies and organizations they interact with, including their financial institutions. 

We recognized that a traditional branch design and flow didn’t optimally meet these modern demands. As a result, two years ago, we decided to tweak the way we interact with and serve our members in the branch. We implemented new technology and an open branch design to help meet our goals.

Revamping the Branch 

We set out to redesign our flagship branch in Golden, Colorado, in a way that would help us operate more efficiently and facilitate more productive interactions with members. We didn’t just focus on a design that made sense today, but one that would also work tomorrow. After considering and evaluating several options, we decided to implement a concierge-style approach and eliminate paper, coins and wires. 

The branch space was designed with a contemporary hotel lobby in mind—a comfortable, open space with modern finishes, plenty of sitting areas and refreshments. We removed the teller line and armed all employees with Wi-Fi-enabled Microsoft Surface tablets to free them from the restraints of traditional desk work stations. Our employees are now out on the floor and can open the door for members, shake their hands and greet them with a smile right away. A point person at the front helps direct traffic so that members are immediately connected with a branch employee to begin a conversation. Employees can meet with members anywhere in the branch and sit next to them, allowing for more authentic interactions than can be achieved from across a desk. Using their tablets, staff can initiate secure transactions from anywhere in the branch, which are queued up and sent to the cash recycler once a staff member enters his or her unique security code.

About 80% of the member transactions at the credit union can be accomplished using our advanced NCR ATMs, which accept deposits without the need of envelopes; they can also provide paper statements and enable withdrawals. We wanted to ensure that these straightforward transactions are completed as efficiently and quickly as possible, creating more time for members and employees to discuss more strategic or complicated financial wellness topics and retirement options. We train our employees to walk members over to the ATM and demonstrate how to use the machine to complete their desired financial tasks or transactions. This has promoted strong adoption and has indeed left more time for employees to dive deeper into purposeful conversations with members.

As mentioned above, all of our employees have started using a cash recycler as well, and we have eliminated coins for the first time. Managing coins is a cumbersome, inefficient process that previously consumed time that could be better dedicated to member relationships. While we will still take coin in, we stopped giving it out and became one of the first few coinless branches in the country. Additionally, as our branch is close to a major interstate, using a cash recycler instead of storing cash in easily accessible teller drawers has provided stronger security for our employees.

A Model That Fits All Generations

Introducing a new branch experience was a significant change, so we wanted to make sure that everyone was comfortable, and all questions were answered. Our member base spans all generations, so it was important that the new design was embraced across the board. 

Millennials reacted positively to our new design from the onset, immediately gravitating toward the Apple store-esque atmosphere and open concept. A few of our traditionalists, on the other hand, were initially a bit more skeptical about the new branch layout. 

For example, a longtime member wasn’t happy when we first opened the new branch because he was worried that his conversations with the employees would be overheard and his sensitive information shared. I asked him to point out where the closest other person was. He was amazed to realize that the open concept actually provided more privacy; credit union employees can now intentionally space members out across the room, farther apart than traditional teller stations. We trained all employees how to answer such questions and explain our reasoning behind and benefits of the new branch style. Today, members of all ages have come to really enjoy the design and flow. 

Reaping the Benefits and Planning for the Future

Since the redesign, we have boosted our operational efficiency. We previously had 11 staff members in the branch at a time. Now, thanks to our wireless delivery, intelligent ATMs and cash recycler, we need just five. Notably, we didn’t terminate anyone; members of our staff were either relocated to another branch location or decided to move on in their credit union careers. This branch’s new design has also significantly reduced member wait times and its associated burden on the tellers. As such, we have facilitated more meaningful interactions that have led to profitable cross-sell opportunities and strengthened member relationships. 

While we are a smaller CU, with $95 million in assets and about 9,500 members, we face the same demands from our members as significantly larger credit unions with more resources do. Part of our success and ability to do more with less can be attributed to partnerships, such as with Member Driven Technologies, a CUSO based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, which hosts our core processing. MDT also helps us integrate our branch technology, including the new tablets and cash recyclers, and provides consultative services to promote innovation.

At the end of this year, we plan on evaluating the verbal feedback received from members, and we will likely begin transforming our other two branches as well. We are committed to prioritizing personal service and member relationships, and we will ensure that our operations and offerings match these expectations. 

CUES member Randy Mims is president/CEO of $95 million Credit Union of the Rockies, Golden, Colorado.

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