You’ve heard it plenty of times, there’s strength in numbers. That goes for credit unions too. Shared branching is win-win for the credit union member who benefits from access to a broad network and the credit union because being a part of the network is a plus in recruiting and retaining customers. It’s not surprising then, that the number of credit unions participating in CO-OP Financial Services’ CO-OP Shared Branching network continues to grow.
In 1975 shared branching began in Michigan with five Metro Detroit area credit unions through Service Centers Corporation. Today, 1,800 credit unions, serving 50 million members at 5,600 locations are part of the CO-OP Shared Branching network.
What’s the appeal?
“You can do anything as if you were in your own branch,” says Kathy Herziger-Snider, PhD., senior vice president ATM/Debit/Prepaid/Shared Branch, for CO-OP Financial Services. “This is a powerful ability, especially in a time of natural disasters. If your branch is down you can go to another branch in the network and the teller has access to all your account information.” Not just savings and checking, but loans -- everything. “You can still pay your bills on time,” she adds.
How does it work?
Joe Mecca, AVP. Communication for Coastal Credit Union, says his credit union participates in the CO-OP Shared Branching network. He explains how it works. “Members of participating credit unions have access to transaction services (typically deposits, withdrawals and transfers) at any other credit union that offers the shared branching services. Credit unions can participate by offering shared branching access to their own members, providing shared branch services to other credit unions’ members, or both. Coastal currently participates only by enabling our members to use the system.”
He highlights the advantages, “CO-OP Shared Branching is actually the second largest branch network in the nation (only Wells Fargo has more locations), giving members of credit unions like ours, access to 5,600 branch locations nationwide. This is particularly beneficial to Coastal because many of our members came to us from tech companies that have a strong presence in the Research Triangle area (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) of North Carolina, but also have locations around the country. While we serve our local members well through our own 22 branches, our presence and our focus is entirely local. For members who travel or relocate for work, Shared Branching allows them to keep the relationship with the credit union they love, yet still have convenient access to their accounts wherever they go.”
What you need to think about
While the network is growing, only 1,800 out of more than 6,000 credit unions in the U.S. are members. You can find out if your credit union is a member at CO-OP Credit Unions.
Says Mecca, “There aren’t many downsides once a member understands how shared branching works. It’s all about setting expectations. The other credit union is going to be able to provide transaction services very well, but isn’t likely to have intimate knowledge of Coastal, so they won’t be able to provide the higher-level services that we can in our own branches, or that they can provide to their own members. Similarly, they aren’t going to be opening accounts or taking loan applications on our behalf. Fortunately, we have a robust online presence to facilitate service, lending and account opening for members who aren’t in our local footprint.”
Mostly though, says Mecca, “Shared branching – along with national surcharge-free ATM networks - are a great way for smaller local and regional credit unions to have a much larger service presence for their members.”