Reader Question #1

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We are looking to expand beyond the typical "bankers' hours," and we are wondering what, if any, changes may be needed at our existing branches as well as how this new strategy should be taken into account in terms of location, security, design or other facilities-related criteria we haven't thought of in our future branches?

The Design Staff at DEI, Cincinnati, Ohio

The design of your facility for after-hours operation greatly depends upon the services you would like to offer. However, the design should limit access to only those services offered and not keep the entire branch open. As an example, a suite can be located directly off the main entrance rotunda for the credit union's extended hours while securing the rest of the facility by a gated entrance and a separate alarm operation.

It is wise to take into consideration location, security, lighting, and what hours you are going to consider.

For instance, ATMs and offices for after hours closing can be located in a 24-hour area. Remote Teller Stations can be located in a secured area and be staffed by only one teller in a secured location within the branch. Or the drive-thru can be operated without a major security overhaul.

Connie Lyle and Will Klein, KDA Holdings, Inc., Marietta, Ga.

* 24-hour lobbies with secure access (card swipe), full service ATMs, access to the credit union's website, and telephone access to the call center and a 24-hour loan line.

* Design the layout to the demands of the market for extended hours and services. What are the market's hot buttons-drive-ups, cash services, lending, investments, etc.?

* Give yourself the capability of having portions of the facility open at different times to meet the demand of the local market. Most often, this will mean opening member service for longer hours than the teller area (which can be served by drive-ups and ATMs). The facility can be designed with entrances into the extended-hours areas and secure doors or gates to the remainder of the facility.

* Provide for accessible conference rooms, toilets, and break areas for seminars (great cross-selling opportunities).

* Since location should equate to convenience, retail areas make the ideal sites for branches with extended hours to coincide with the surrounding businesses.

* A well-lit and visible location provides the best foundation for good security. Also, the institution should increase the number of security cameras.

* Staffing should be flexible and should contain permanent full-time and part-time employees that can be supplemented by rotating staff from other offices.

Ralph La Macchia, La Macchia Group, Milwaukee, Wis.

With an existing facility there are three main issues: 1) security, 2) staffing, and 3) location. Are you planning on offering full services or just paying and receiving services? If you are offering paying and receiving services only during the extended hours, you could just keep the drive-up open and install a cash dispenser.

This would preclude opening the cash safe or vault, making a hold-up more difficult, as well as reducing the potential for employee-related problems. In addition, cash dispensers increase transaction efficiency, thereby minimizing overall employee costs associated with offering extended hours.

The new hours will probably overlap into non-daylight hours. We would recommend you conduct a thorough examination of the site and surrounding area, reviewing light levels and places to hide.

It is better to have numerous, lower-powered metal halide lights (white light, as opposed to sodium vapor, or yellow light) than to have fewer, more powerful lights on tall poles.

Check the proximity of the facility to mechanical units on the ground, dumpster corrals, ditches, berms, signs, and fences since these are places where people can hide. Either eliminate these spots or put cameras on them.

Also, for free, you can call the local police department and they can help you conduct an audit of the area. Asking the police to help may increase the patrol visits to the credit union during critical times, given that most would-be thieves "case the joint."

Additionally, you could use a card access at the entry door ATM. RTUs and walk-up tellers are typically difficult and expensive to install in existing facilities; if you plan for them during the design phase of a new facility you will be better off.

Often, limited access lobbies are a challenge to create in an existing facility unless you are prepared to invest in a thorough design evaluation and construction. It would be easier to take these steps one at a time, i.e. only open drive-ups for a test period.

If you are in a free-standing building, in line or an end cap on a shopping center, in sponsor quarters, etc., all will play into your ultimate implementation.

Perhaps a personal visit with your choice of panel members could prove to be of benefit.

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