Sharing The Bricks, But Not The Clicks

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Occupants of the country's first "Credit Union Mall" are sharing 5,000 square feet of brick and mortar-but not the technologies required to do business, according to Roger Ball, CEO at Call FCU.

"The technologies for each credit union are based on its own needs," said Ball. Call FCU built the Mall, which opened in May.

"We wanted to make the Mall a little different than what had been done before," he continued, "and we wanted each credit union inside the Mall to maintain its own identity and independent servicing of its members."

Each CU sets its own lobby and drive-up hours, for example. And all internal technologies are kept separate.

"We each have a different data processing system, computers and phone system and extensions," Ball said. "We keep each credit union autonomous."

Shared technologies was never the purpose of the CU Mall, Ball said. While sharing internal technologies might invite economies of scale, it also might transform the group into more of a service center, he explained.

Call FCU decided to go with the Mall concept when it outgrew its former leased space, Ball explained. "We came up with the Credit Union Mall after thinking, 'What can we do to help the credit union movement as well as ourselves?' "

The $225-million CU built enough brick and mortar for itself and its tenants, two smaller CUs that may not have been able to build their own branches. Call Federal leases the space, furniture, safe and security to its tenants, Connects FCU and Richmond FCU.

The three CUs have distinct fields of membership, and have retained their distinct flavors, as well, Ball said. Call Federal serves Philip Morris Employees, SEGs and their family members. Connects Federal serves Verizon Communications employees, and Richmond Federal serves Richmond's federal employees.

The 26,000-member Call FCU solved some unique puzzles in its quest to be at once unified and independent. For example, the three occupants looked to maintain their autonomy in the shared drive-up lot.

"We designed the building with six drive-up lanes," explained Ball. "Call Federal has two lanes, and Connects Federal and Richmond Federal each have one lane. There are two spares available for growth."

One piece of the puzzle remained. With a drive-up area the size of a six-lane freeway, tellers stationed in different parts of the shared building needed help seeing their drive-up members.

"We installed two-way Diebold video monitors so that each teller can see his or her drive-up member and vise versa," Ball said. "The monitors satisfy that need for the member and the teller to see a face."

"The drive-up lanes represent cutting-edge technology, but with the personal credit union touch," added Kelley Parks, marketing specialist at Call Federal. "The two-way video technology allows the drive-up tellers to remain in their own credit union space, while keeping the drive-thru lanes for all three CUs in a common area."

Pneumatic tubing channels paper transactions and identification from the member's car to each CU's office, said Ball.

The drive-up solution guarantees each CU's independence, Ball said. "We can't tune into their lanes, and they can't tune into our lanes."

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