'Tough Love' Key To Making Shared Branches Work

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SAN DIMAS, Calif.-Effective shared branches are run by managers who see the big picture and practice "tough love."

Sarah Canepa Bang, president of Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC), told Credit Union Journal that while the branch must educate non-proprietary members on properly using a shared branch, these members have to approach the teller line prepared to do business.

"Members need to learn to use the system and they can't show up not knowing their member number," said Canepa Bang. "The branch manager must support the teller in saying that if you don't know your member number you can use the phone at the service desk to call your credit union. After speaking with their credit union, the member goes to the back of the line, not to the front. It is tough love, but once members stand in line again, they don't forget their member number a second time."

The most effective shared branch locations are run by managers who make sure all members-whether they are from the host CU or not-receive the same attention and care, Canepa Bang emphasized. Mangers who make sure that happens generally have a very deep understanding of the credit union philosophy, she said. "They understand how the credit union movement works and that everyone in the movement is in this together. They also realize that while their branch may see a few hundred extra members due to the shared branch arrangement, they may have 1,000 of their CU members using a shared branch somewhere else."

Those same managers likely have the ear of the CEO, as well, said Canepa Bang, who believes the CEO must openly share his support of shared branching with staff. "Some employees consider shared branching extra work. But if they know the CEO is firmly behind shared branching, no one is going to go around the branch manager and complain about the workload."

Canepa Bang re-emphasized the importance of communication between the credit union and "guest" members, adding that good managers always make sure that when the guest CU's data processing system is down, a sign is posted at the back of teller lines. "You don't want a shared branch member waiting in line, then finally getting to the teller window and learning that their credit union's computer system is not working."

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