Buildings And Business

Register now

Credit unions interested in delving deeper into member business lending and other commercial account services already know they've got to hire the expertise to make such a program work. But what they may not know is that their existing facilities need to be upgraded as well, according to several facilities design experts.

"There are some significant changes that have to take place in a credit union's retail delivery design," said Kevin Blair, CEO of NewGround, Inc., here. "You don't want a commercial account doing business at a regular teller line. These are typically lengthy transactions, and it's as much an issue of inconveniencing your individual members as it is about the fact that you don't want a business account standing around in the lobby."

Credit unions may want to consider dedicating a window specifically to member business services, he said, and may determine they need to go with a more "upscale" look and feel to better match some of their business members' expectations, particularly since many of them are likely to be used to dealing with a bank instead of a credit union.

But credit unions will want to be careful how they handle some of these changes, lest they alienate their regular, individual members, noted John Hyche of KDA. "This can be a smack in the face of credit union philosophy, where everything is supposed to be democratic," he observed. "If you're a regular member, and you're standing in line and then see that the business member gets right to the front of the line, you're not going to be happy. There's a balancing act that has to occur."

A big part of that balancing act is educating members about the fact that the credit union is offering member business services. "It could be as simple as internal grphics and signage to announce that you now have a Member Business Center," Hyche suggested.

Indeed, the need for a change in merchandising and signage is key, Blair agreed. "Usually, credit unions leave their signage as business as usual," he said. "What they need to be doing is announcing, 'Hey, we're doing business services, now, too.' In-branch communication and merchandising has to change."

For credit unions that are ready to make a bigger investment to ensure that neither the regular member nor the business member is inconvenienced by one another, they may want to consider putting member business services in a completely different part of the building or even dedicating a separate service center to member business accounts.

"We've got a (military) credit union where there's this retired master sergeant who managed to pick up two or three laundromats in town, and every few days he shows up with a bunch of coins," KDA's Tommy Liu related. "You have to figure out how you're going to handle all that coin."

Blair suggested investing in more sophisticated currency-counting machines as well as increasing the storage capacity both at individual teller stations and the vault itself. HBE Financial Facilities' National Sales Manager Tom Lombardo pointed out the need for commercial carriers in drive-up lanes to handle "bulk" transactions.

Similarly, night deposit accommodations will have to change, too, Blair added, noting that most CUs rely on typical envelope drops. But business members will need bag drops.

Some credit unions may try to push many of these types of transactions to the drive-up, but once again, there are some equipment issues.

"Credit unions may find they need a commercial carrier overhead tube or dedicate a deal drawer to commercial accounts," Blair noted. "But again, you have to be careful how you do this. The commercial carrier overhead tubes are expensive, and if you're only going to do that for one lane you'll have to do a lot of educating your members or they're going to get stuck behind a commercial account and be really annoyed. Sometimes credit unions will go to a courier service, where they actually go and pick-up their business members' deposits rather than making them come to the branch. It adds personalized service and keeps the business accounts from tying up your regular accounts."

Another option is using commercial boxes-a combination of a safety deposit box and a mailbox, according to Jim Caliendo, EVP-COO of PWCampbell. "They're located near the teller line, so when the business member comes in, he can secure his deposit in the commercial box and just leave. Then during non-peak hours, the MSR can get into the box, complete the transaction and leave the receipt in the box for the business member to pick up later," he explained. "It takes some getting used to for the business member, but really it's just like making a deposit via ATM. It's far more economical and far less people intensive, and in the end it saves the member a lot of time, too. You may see some small amount of resistance at first, but once they've tried it, they love it."

With the increased size of transactions come some security issues, as well, Caliendo observed. "You need to have the option to close off the needed secured areas, such as the teller line and the vault, while being able to accommodate your business members who may need access after hours," he noted. "You install a bring-down gate so that they can still come in consult with you when they need to, like for a loan or something of that nature."

A business member bringing in a lot of currency and checks for deposit may feel a need for greater privacy, as well.

If handling business accounts in another part of the building isn't an option, credit unions should consider partitions or screens at the designated business teller window so the amount of cash being handled isn't out in the open, advised Ned Compton, VP-Sales for DEI, Inc.

The good news is, some of the things that will help a credit union handle business services while continuing to offer great service to individual members are things that credit unions have already been doing anyway.

"We're seeing a lot of hoteling of offices," Caliendo commented. "We're building branches where there are a couple of offices available but not assigned to any one person. Loan originators, mortgage originators-and member business loan officers-can use these offices. They're not in them full-time, so you don't have to have separate offices for every person."

Similarly, some credit unions have already adopted remote teller systems, that allow an MSR to handle multiple transactions at once, noted Lombardo, who suggested that such technology can also be used to help accommodate member business transactions without gumming up the works for individual members.

Business members, particularly those who have used a bank in the past, may have higher expectations about the look and feel of a facility, so credit unions may want to revamp their decor, but again, some CUs are doing this regardless of member business services. "We're doing a lot of enhanced interiors that are more upscale," Compton noted. "That's not always driven by business accounts."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.