Brach Break: Advice On An Effective Branching Strategy From A CU With Many Outlets

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Here are some tips on effective branching, courtesy of Jim Blaine, CEO of State Employees Credit Union, which has more than 180 branches:

Test the waters. Get a short-term lease in a storefront and see how that location does. If it's successful, consider building a free-standing branch.

Set general principles for branch managers to follow, but grant broad discretion to local branch managers in decision making and problem solving.

Learn from McDonald's. Have a standard building design with standard internal elements to help keep costs down and to allow for faster branching.

Check traffic. "No one goes to the credit union on their way to work, they're always running late," Blaine suggested. "Everyone goes to the credit union on their way home from work, so you want to be on the 'going home' side of the street.

Support your staff. In addition to having a call center for its members, SECU has a call center for its staff so that if someone comes across a situation with which they are unsure how to handle, the staffer can call the call center for an immediate answer.

Think Globally-Hire Locally. "We don't impose people on our branch managers, we let them do the hiring," Blaine explained. "There are certain positions that do have to go through an interview process with us at headquarters, loan officers, admionistrative offcers-these are future leaders, so they must be interviewed by three of us here."

Secret Shoppers. Why hire someone to do secret shopping, when you've got members who can do it for you? SECU actually uses its own members to secret shop its branches.

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