The one clear fact in the raging debate about the role of branches for credit unions is that the voices are getting louder on both sides, with some insisting that clinging to branches is strangling the industry’s profitability while others say that the personalization is what makes credit unions different.
Experts have been predicting the death of the branch at least back to the recent economic downturn in 2008, but hard numbers provided by Parth Kapoor, industry analyst at Callahan & Associates, show a drop of exactly 406 net credit union branches from 2008 to 2012. That’s around a 2% decline from 21,401 branches industrywide in 2008 to 20,995 in 2012.
And yet something is happening because from 2011 to 2012 there was a net decline of 434 branches, which some experts point to as a sign of growing impatience with branch networks.
For good reason. Right now is a moment for pervasive uncertainty about the future of branches because good points are made on both sides.