Eight Wash. CUs Agree To Share 40 Branches

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Eight of the Evergreen State's largest credit unions will now share their facilities- meaning nearly 400,000 members in the Puget Sound region from Olympia to Bellevue soon will be able to process transactions at 40 branches.

Kevin Foster-Keddie, president and CEO of Washington State Employees' CU, was ebullient about the partnership, telling The Credit Union Journal, "This is fantastic. It is one of my dreams."

According to Foster-Keddie, the idea for the joint venture was born in a casual conversation he had almost a year ago with Bob Harvey, president and CEO of Seattle Metropolitan CU, when both were attending the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, D.C.

"I told Bob we were thinking of opening a branch in downtown Seattle, and he said his credit union was thinking of doing the same thing," Foster-Keddie recalled. "We began talking about sharing a branch, then other people joined the conversation. It turned into an ad hoc meeting in a cafeteria on Capitol Hill."

When Harvey and Foster-Keddie returned to Seattle, they invited 15 CUs to a meeting to discuss sharing branches. Foster-Keddie said eight were on board immediately, and he expects other CUs will join in later.

The eight CUs participating in the shared branch partnership are Boeing Employees CU, Seattle Metropolitan CU, Verity CU and Group Health CU, all based in Seattle, Qualstar CU in Bellevue, Olympia-based Washington State Employees' CU, First Technology CU in Beaverton, Ore., and Western FCU, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif.

The target date for the partnership is June 1-a television ad campaign is scheduled to start at that time-but Foster- Keddie said some branches already have begun processing transactions. "Some are up now, but not all 40 branches are starting at once due to capacity needs," he said.

The participating CUs will not offer services to members of other credit unions; they simply will process transactions, Foster-Keddie added. When a member makes a withdrawal at another CU, the member's CU will be charged about $1.25.

"The cost to the credit union that processes the withdrawal is 90 cents. The difference is what it costs to run the network," he explained.

The Seattle partnership will process its transactions through Financial Service Centers Cooperative. Sarah Canepa Bang, CEO of FSCC, said technology brings it all together.

"Each credit union's data processors write an interface to FSCC's switch," she said. "This is similar to how ATM transactions are processed. This method is more efficient than having standalone software, because individual tellers at all the different branches in the network are able to look at screens that are very similar."

FSCC works with 186 credit unions, representing $76 billion in assets and 8 million members. "We have 420 branches in our network, plus connections with the other two shared branch networks. We have plans to add 200 branches this year," Canepa Bang said.

The Washington league said the 40 branches offer 400,000 potential users in the Puget Sound area. Foster-Keddie said he expects members will use the shared branch network three times a week.

FSCC's Canepa Bang said she expects 5% of members will use the network at first, ramping up quickly to 15% to 20% when the advertising starts. "There will be a lot of usage right away, because these credit unions have done such a good job of getting the word out there. We can handle as many transactions as they can pump through," she added.

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