Mobile ATM Evolves Into 'Branch On Wheel's For Illinois Credit Union

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When GCS Credit Union decided to drive the "people helping people" message to its members, they weren't kidding.

The $184-million credit union is delivering services to members via a mobile branch.

"It just started as an mobile ATM unit with two ATMs on the outside," said Marketing Manager Matt Mittendorf. "It was going so good at fairs and festivals that we decided to try and incorporate an office out of it."

In addition, he said the timing was right, as the CU had just received a new charter designation that included the entire Madison County area. Previously, GCS FCU covered only Granite City, home of Granite City Steel (thus the acronym to identify its original sponsor).

With an investment of about $100,000, GCS CU created its very own branch on wheels. The converted Ford shuttle bus-"It's a lot like the ones you ride at the airport," Mittendorf said-travels to its SEGs to distribute cash, take deposits and offer help with loan applications and other financial paperwork.

But, instead of slippery seats and a luggage cart, this one has two ATMs accessible from the outside and a small office where transactions are conducted. For security, it's equipped with surveillance cameras and an alarm system that can be triggered at various hidden spots throughout the vehicle.

"It's just as secure as one of our brick-and- mortar offices," Mittendorf said, noting that two employees, a mobile branch supervisor and a member services representative, always travel together.

He said the van, with its magnified logo painted on the outside, has become a great visual tool. "We are changing people's attitudes about the banking business," he said. "Typically, when people think of finances, they see a big lobby and a suit and tie."

While the Internet and its online banking capabilities are changing those perceptions, he said some people still want that face-to-face service. Now, GCS FCU members can get it without ever leaving their offices.

Mittendorf said the credit union is targeting its larger SEGS-those with 250-plus employees to make the traveling time worth its while.

The vehicle is only part of GCS's efforts to increase visibility. Mittendorf said the CU also uses print, radio and television advertising and makes a lot of cold calls to attract members. The result has been a steady increase in assets.

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