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Shared branching offers service excellence, growth


Any credit union can become as convenient, or more so, than the nation's largest banks, thanks to shared branching—credit unions' collaborative effort to attract and retain members by cost-effectively expanding convenience. In fact, shared branching is identified as a means of fostering service excellence as part of credit unions' national campaign for growth, Unite for Good. Credit unions need shared branching to become their members' primary financial institution as well as to grow income and add new members.


Research shows  that consumers of all ages and circumstances expect financial convenience not just online, but in any way their needs dictate. That means members who retire, graduate, change jobs, move, travel often, have children away at college, and snowbirds have to choose whether to stay with your credit union or go elsewhere simply to retain a physical point of contact.

How shared branching works

Members of credit unions in the shared branching network can use any branch with the network's logo to make routine transactions such as deposits and withdrawals, transfer funds, make loan and other payments, print statements and inquire about balances.

A member needs only the name of their credit union, their account number and a valid picture ID.

Members can find the nearest branch location by searching the network database online at, or on their mobile device. Free apps are available for iPhones and android devices. Members can also call 1-800-919-CUSC (2872).


But shared branching lets them stay with your credit union by allowing any of 5,000+ other CU shared branch offices nationwide to complete routine transactions (see "How," right).


Rick Hagopian, President of Wisconsin Credit Union Shared Service Centers (WCUSSC)—part of the nationwide shared branching network—said some credit unions still mistakenly fear that their members will be stolen by another credit union in the network.


"Policies prohibit solicitation of other credit unions' members, something that's reinforced by secret shopping among participants," he said. "Member stealing just doesn't happen. What we have seen is branch users experiencing greater satisfaction with their own credit union, and even a branch-networked credit union winning service awards in a city where they have no proprietary office."


Participants have also cited shared branching as important in relation to their other delivery channels.

If your credit union is outside the massive credit union branch network – which today already is the fourth largest branch network in America, rivaling the three largest national banks – you're already at risk of losing members, Hagopian added. He also said non-participants are not maximizing service penetrations.


"Even the largest credit unions can't build their own branches fast enough or efficiently enough to rival the access that 1,756 shared branching credit unions currently offer nationwide, 45 of which are Wisconsin credit unions," he said.

CO-OP Financial Services – which will soon implement a rebrand of shared branches nationwide – issued white papers on shared branching myths and convenience that cite the many bottom line benefits for credit unions.


The white papers reveal that shared branching:


  • Helps retain more profitable members. While shared branching users only make up 6.8 percent of all the households at the average credit union, they deliver 12.7 percent of the total profit. On average the annual household profit for shared branching users was $90.25 compared to profit of only $7.07 on households that do not use shared branching.


  • Boosts non-interest income. One study found that shared branching participants saw non-interest income at 1.43 percent of average assets, 17 basis points higher than credit unions that do not participate in shared branching. (Although it is not necessary to open your branches to serve other credit unions' members, Wisconsin participants that do are earning at least $1.47 for each transaction).


  • Increases membership. In a recent study, membership grew among seventy percent of credit unions that increased their presence through shared branching.


Hagopian explains that most credit unions are amazed at how inexpensive it is to be part of the network, especially when they see that by serving other credit unions' members they can offset the fixed costs of participating. Credit unions often favorably compare the relatively low costs of participation to the expense of a full-time employee or even one proprietary branch.

Did you know?
Besides offering the fourth largest branch network in America, credit unions have the largest ATM network in the country with 30,000 ATMs, providing members of participating credit unions free transactions. Free apps to locate them are available for iPhones and android devices.


To economize even further, the shared branching interface can also connect credit unions to products such as mobile banking, call/lending center services and remote deposit capture.


"When you realize the benefits to a credit union's balance sheet, the risk of losing members to either credit unions or megabanks that offer locations nationwide, and the need to offer the convenience that your most profitable members demand, it's obvious why shared branching is a top recommendation as part of the Unite for Good campaign," said League President & CEO Brett Thompson.

CO-OP Financial Services advances the "increasing awareness" action step in the Unite for Good growth campaign by providing marketing assistance and materials in support of shared branching. Credit unions participating in the WCUSSC branch network received materials to replace the "swirl" logo with the CO-OP brand as part of a process explained in an archived webinar and FAQ.


Credit unions can order lapel buttons that proclaim "My credit union has 5,000+ branches!" as well as a handout that tellers can distribute to explain their credit union's shared branching convenience. For information on these materials or shared branching, contact Rick Hagopian at (414) 325-9880, Ext. 3.



Unite for Good effort is an internal growth strategy developed by CUNA in conjunction with its Board, state leagues, credit unions and system partners. The plan's action steps – to remove barriers, increase awareness and foster service excellence–are aimed at helping more credit unions become their members' primary financial institution by compelling members to see credit unions as their best financial partner. Read more articles in our Unite for Good series.

©2005 Wisconsin Credit Union League. All rights reserved.
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