Study predicts permanent decline for credit union branch visits

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The coronavirus is likely to have a long-lasting impact on how credit union members interact with branches, according to a report released Wednesday.

A study from Access Softek found that more than 20% of members surveyed expect a permanent decrease in the frequency of their branch visits once post-COVID-19 life begins. Additionally, with digital banking usage on the rise since the pandemic began, almost 30% of those surveyed said they will continue to use digital banking channels and 34% said those channels are better at helping them meet their financial needs.

Roughly half of respondents said they predict no change between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic branch patterns.

“This is an indicator that digital solutions have enabled many members to bank as usual, even during unprecedented interruptions,” the company said in a press release.

The research was conducted via Google Surveys over the course of four days in early July.

Although members are predicting fewer branch visits, the study found that members aren't expected to abandon their credit union. Just 4% said they may leave their credit union once the pandemic ends, while members said they are less likely to leave their credit union now than they were before the outbreak by a margin of three to one.

“This is encouraging news for credit unions,” Access Softek founder and CEO Chris Doner said in the press release. “Even during unforeseen circumstances, they have maintained member relationships and, in many cases, increased loyalty. Digital has been instrumental in their success, as online and mobile solutions allow members to continue banking, virtually uninterrupted.”

Doner cautioned credit unions not to be complacent and to continue investing in digital tools to keep satisfaction rates high. The company also said the results should cause credit unions to reassess their branching priorities, including possibly reallocating funds away from brick and mortar in favor of additional digital services.

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