July 20th, 2021
LAKEWOOD, Colorado (December 7th, 2020) – Shared Branching support CUSO InNetwork and her sister Back Office support CUSO Aux conducted a credit union industry survey on the changing role of branches and member experience. The purpose of the in-depth survey was to provide industry research on where credit unions are today – eight months into the pandemic – and where they see their organization in the future, as it relates to a variety of topics:
- Pandemic Impact on Member Interaction and Channel Usage
- Credit Union Branch Pandemic Experiences
- The Branch of the Future
- Contactless Member ID
InNetwork and Aux hope to provide the data necessary to help credit union executives make decisions into 2021 and beyond by utilizing primary-source data from the wide variety of credit unions who participated. Below are the participant statistics.
- 53 Individuals – Credit union decision makers
- Asset Range: $14M to $7.6B
- States: CA, CO, DC, IA, ID, KY, MI, MO, NE, NM, OK, TX, VA, WY
- Population: 7,800 (rural Montana) to 684,500 (Downtown Washington, DC)
- Timeframe: October to November 2020
Topic #1: Pandemic Impact on Member Interaction and Channel Usage
50% of participants revealed their credit union branch transaction volumes remain lower than 2019 but are growing, and 20% of participants report that branch transaction volumes remain the same as in 2019. About a quarter report that transaction volumes remain significantly lower.
It’s no surprise 25% of participants responded that online banking transaction volumes are significantly higher than 2019 and that 70% said somewhat higher. Mobile banking transactions nearly mirror those results of online banking transactions. Call center transaction results were split into thirds, with choices of about the same as 2019, growing and now higher than 2019, or significantly higher than 2019 tying at 32%.
Topic #2: Credit Union Branch Pandemic Experiences
We asked credit union executives a variety of questions surrounding mask-wearing to gauge the cultural trends credit unions were experiencing industry-wide. When asked how members respond to the temporary removal of mask in ordered to be identified, three-quarters responded that members are understanding and comply. None reported that members are upset and refuse. Nearly one-quarter responded that they don’t require members to remove masks. In a similar vein, when asked how members responded to mask requirements at the branch, 83% complied, none refused, and 13% do not require masks in the branch. Participants responded that employee mask requirements were overwhelmingly accepted. Less than 10% of participants noted that employees are not required to wear masks.
We were also curious to understand how the pandemic has impacted branches and closures. 70% of participants responded that they closed branches temporarily due to positive cases of COVID-19 among staff or members. 23% had to close due to staff, and 7% due to both staff and members, which we found to be surprisingly high. We then asked executives to share how many times they have had to close branches; results ranged from once to six times. In regard to branches being permanently closed, we were pleased to report that less than 10% of credit unions have had to do so. Looking into the future, less than 13% of participants reported that they plan to permanently close branches in the next 1-3 years due to changes in traffic. 12% responded that they are possibly cancelling branch building plans.
It made sense to further investigate the experience participants had when they closed branches due to COVID-19 issues, either temporarily or permanently, as we found very little prior data on this subject. How were branches cleaned? Who paid for the cleaning? Was the credit union even in control of their branch closing?
One executive from Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming, explained, “The branches were closed for almost exactly two months. During that time, we had our standard cleaning crew do several deep cleans of the branch. The crew does full building cleaning for us every night after closing, as we already had a contract for nightly cleaning. It is hard to estimate the cost of closing the branch for two months, when you add in the reputation cost, potential lost loans, etc.”
An executive from a large Colorado-based credit union commented, “A cleaning crew comes in and sprays the center with Clorox 360. Staff is also wiping down teller stations and desks in between members. We pay for the cleaning crew and each cleaning costs roughly $450.”
An executive from a small, heavily-touristed town in Montana wrote, “We closed our lobbies to members in March of 2020 and they have not reopened to the general public. We take appointments and areas are sanitized before and after the member’s arrival.”
Lastly, an executive from the Denver Metro area commented, “We didn’t have to clean the branch [when it was closed]. Our SEG, The City of Westminster, has had their building closed to the public since March and doesn’t know when, if ever, we will be able to go back on site.”
These three very different examples illustrate the unique and challenging patchwork of experiences credit unions have faced in 2020.
Topic #3: The Branch of the Future
Although it is important to understand views about the current credit union, we also felt it was critical to examine what they expect in the future. We asked participants who are planning to build new or remodel existing branches to answer whether their plans now include ITMs, kiosks, and other self-service options. 57% reported yes, and 43% no.
Based on the results from the previous question, it was no surprise that comments were all over the board when participants were asked if they believed member expectations for remote service options are forever changed. The majority of participants agreed: “Yes. This has permanently changed consumer behavior to move to digital services,” writes on executive from a credit union in Eastern Virginia with $200M in assets. “Yes. I think member expectations are higher and more demanding. They expect easy, secure access with all the latest features,” agrees an executive from a Denver credit union with around $1B in assets.
Some disagreed: “Only for a minority of our members. The majority require high touch (handholding),” writes one participant from a credit union in the Santa Fe, NM area with around $150M in assets. “No. We still get a fair amount of foot traffic,” writes another from a Denver-area credit union with $150M in assets.
We asked participants what the branch of the future will include. Drive-up lanes, ATMs, video conferencing, and remote teller assistance (ITMs) scored highest. Lowest were employee-less branches and kiosks. And when asked if the branch of the future will be smaller, over 80% said yes. Let’s not forget the collaborative service of the century: Shared Branching. For the 1,600 credit unions who participate nation-wide, how shared branching plays a role in their future is ever-present indeed. The majority of our survey participants are decision makers at credit unions who are part of the Shared Branching Network. When asked if shared branching becomes more or less important if credit unions operate fewer branches in the future, two-thirds responded more.
Topic #4: Contactless Member ID
Contactless processes for member identity verification have been gaining steam in recent years, with CUSOs like CULedger’s innovative MemberPass™ technology, which operates on a self-sovereign identity model. The pandemic has exacerbated the demand exponentially, now that members are (1) doing their banking virtually, (2) having to cover their faces when they do go to the credit union, and (3) minimizing the amount of handling of ID materials to keep germs at bay. We wanted to take the opportunity to gauge industry awareness and opinion of these advances in anti-fraud technology. We asked participants if contactless processes will become a member expectation, and 83% said yes. For those who answered yes, over one-third weren’t sure how contactless ID methodologies would factor in. 15% said that members will want contactless ID options, but they will wait until the member asks for them, and 10% said they will wait until Apple and Google make strides in the market. Just a quarter of participants responded that they were willing to take the lead in this area. However, over three-quarters agreed that contactless identification would help their staff make better decisions. Certainly, there is a discrepancy in what credit unions think would be beneficial and how willing they are to adopt it.
Lastly, we asked how concerned participants felt their members were about controlling their digital ID. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average number was 6.
These results provide a rich tapestry of experiences and opinions from credit unions across the United States. In summary, we found that credit unions have struggled with the effects of COVID, but the majority do not feel the pandemic is enough to halt their long-term plans. Additionally, we see that members are quick to adjust to virtual banking options, but still see value in branch access, and are willing to cooperate with safety precautions. Lastly, we note the friction between emerging technology and credit unions’ hesitation to participate.
Find Us in the Press!
CU Times: New Survey Reports How Pandemic May Change Credit Union Branches
CUToday: Waiting before making Brick-and-Mortar Decisions