Philly-area credit union approved for branch design patent

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Philadelphia-based Ardent Credit Union has received approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to patent its “Cube” branch design.

The branch – 10 feet tall, 14 feet wide and 14 feet long – is designed as a full-service facility that can be placed in existing buildings such as retail spaces, offices and more. Two end sections can be expanded to extend the unit’s length to 24 feet. It includes space for two staff members and is intended to service a few members at a time.

Ardent Credit Union's patented "Cube" branch
Ardent Credit Union's patented "Cube" branch

“We’ve noticed that even with the advancements in online banking, consumers are still looking for nearby in-branch access when selecting a financial institution. This is especially true when it comes to millennials, as their financial needs continue to grow with age,” Ardent President and CEO Rob Werner said in a press release. “The Cube is a perfect model of what can exist between the mobile phone and the freestanding corner branch.”

The $701 million-asset Ardent unveiled its first Cube branch at the Collegeville, Pa. offices of GlaxoSmithKline in late 2018.

With patent in-hand, the credit union plans to eventually sell Cube branch structures to other financial institutions. The idea, the credit union said, is to help FIs keep facilities costs down while maintaining a physical presence in the communities they serve. Each one is projected to cost about $250,000. That strategy could help boost noninterest income at Ardent. The credit union posted about $3.65 million in noninterest revenue during the first three quarters of 2019, the most recent data available, down from about $3.9 million during the same period of 2018.

Ardent’s net income through Q3 ’19 was just under $2 million, down about 13% from one year prior.

“The Cube really unlike anything we’ve ever seen from a financial institution, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of the industry, utilizing cutting edge technology and design,” said Werner. “We’re excited that this patent will give us the opportunity to market these structures to other institutions."

A growing number of credit unions are experimenting with new, smaller branch structures, including Wisconsin-based Simplicity Credit Union, which last year launched a rural branching strategy by converting an old home into a small branch.

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