Just a few days after Bradesco in Brazil, Credit Union of Australia announced the launch of its own branch of the future. But in the current economic context, is investing a sizeable budget in one branch the best value for a credit union’s members?
When I was on my Visible Banking Tour of the Asia Pacific region to promote my book on social media in financial services, and deliver a series of internal workshops at some of the leading banks in Singapore, Thailand and Australia, Credit Union of Australia became back then the leading (most liked) financial institution on facebook in Australia with more than 90,000 likes. Peter Cramb – Manager Digital Initiatives at Credit Union Australia contacted me and proudly emphasized that, despite their limited budget, they were ahead the likes of CBA and NAB.
So I wasn’t too surprised when I found out a few days ago that the biggest credit union in Australia launched another innovative project: their technology-packed branch of the future.
Darrin Northey, CUA’s Group General Manager, Distribution: “CUA Carindale doesn’t look or feel like a bank, and this is what we set out to achieve. We wanted to create an environment that doesn’t just reflect the community but becomes part of the community. We see our branch spaces as becoming far more than transaction and process based, or sci-fi service centres which have begun to alienate people. We want people to stop-in at our branch, to feel inspired and at home with us.””
The branch is packed with innovations and high-tech hardware and services.
Please find below my top 5 features:
* YouChat app – an in-house designed and built Personal Needs Profile for use on Staff iPads, enabling deeper conversations and connections with customer
* iPad Window Bar – for customers to play, learn, explore and transact
* The Chalk Board – a space for local messages, including a digital display
* The Booth self service zones – We have a number of customer self service options for those who know exactly what they want and need to complete their transactions quickly and efficiently
* The Herb Wall – for customers to enjoy a fresh and fragrant vibe from real herbs you can take home (???)
If I appreciate the local community element of a credit union is one of its key USPs (to some extent, it is also true for community banks), hence the importance of its physical presence in the community, I am not so sure of the value of those extremely forward thinking branches. I doesn’t mean I don’t like the concept, as a matter of fact I think it really looks cool. So congratulations to CUA and Darrin’s team for launching this flagship concept branch.
I would also argue that it has been years banks likes Umpqua Bank in the US or Caja Navarra in Spain -with its visionary Civic Banking concept- have proudly communicated on their branches which don’t look like bank branches. So, I am afraid but offering good coffee or free meeting spaces for customers, non-customers and even local businesses or artists is not innovative in the banking industry.
I still personally think that people want to find the same level of customer contact and local knowledge but digitally (online banking, mobile banking, social media banking) and be able to leverage those unique advice any time, conveniently from the comfort of their couch at home. Members might be interested in connecting with their fellow members and tap this unique network of like-minded people to drive solidarity among the community. I am fully aware that the numbers we are talking are small, which makes it difficulty to justify investing in an online community, but there are ways to achieve just that with a limited budget…
In your opinion, should credit union leads the race to banking innovation and invest huge sums of money to beat the larger banks to it? Is it what credit union members expect today? Or is it to carry on nurturing their specificities via an excellent recruitment process and making sure to retain their unmatched knowledge of the local economy?
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