Virtual credit union branches: Friendly, knowledgeable and local

While it is well known that credit unions consistently strive to provide members with superior service and products, credit unions are also consistently on the hunt for new and innovative ways to deliver those superior services and products.

With members increasingly seeking enhanced digital solutions – and exacerbated by the pandemic — credit unions continue to broaden their online and virtual offerings.

“The banking industry is undergoing massive digital disruption, with online deposits, mobile apps, and e-bill payments fundamentally becoming the norm,” according to research firm Insider Intelligence. “Increased consumer demand for digital banking services has given rise to numerous technological advancements within financial institutions — with artificial intelligence at the core of these digital transformations.”

Further, the COVID-19 pandemic “has claimed thousands of lives, stricken many more ill, and devastated entire economies,” a recent IBM study stated. “In response, many financial institutions have safeguarded employees, enabled alternative working models, focused on business continuity and resilience, and learned new ways of serving customers.”

For one credit union, expanding their services during the pandemic, combined with taking a detailed look at studies to better understand what members want, played a role in their decision to launch a virtual branch. 

“More and more of our members each year are discovering how easy and convenient our e-services are, and that number expanded even more during the pandemic,” explained Cynthia Kolko, community and public relations specialist at The Summit FCU, which launched its virtual branch earlier this summer. “At the same time, members like the option to meet face to face with our relationship specialists, who are friendly and knowledgeable and, of course, local.”

Kolko said that all those cues together “told us that a virtual branch would be well-received by our membership and would also differentiate us from other financial institutions.”

Using Zoom technology, branch visitors can see and talk directly with a local relationship specialist and do just about everything they’d do at a physical branch, right from their mobile or electronic device.

Kolko says that members are frequently utilizing and “loving” the new virtual branch services. Comments from members include:

  • “This is a great option; I would have not been able to make it to the bank.”
  • “So convenient for stay-at-home parents and the elderly.”
  • “Easy set up for out-of-state students going to SUNY schools.”
  • “That was so quick and easy!”

Twanda Christensen, The Summit FCU’s VP of marketing and community engagement, said that many financial institutions use the term “virtual branch” to describe their e-services: self-serve transactions like making transfers or deposits. “The Summit’s Virtual Branch builds on that concept. It is the evolution of how we serve our members. It’s just like stepping into a full-service physical branch, only a lot more convenient. You talk to a real, live person from wherever you happen to be.”

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