With 8-County FOM, One Office, CCU Hits The Road

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In an effort to gain more members in the eight counties it serves, CORE Credit Union here plans to take its business on the road.

Equipped with a mobile branch, the $33 million credit union is setting up shop in the parking lots of its 40 SEGs, said CEO Paul Simpkins.

"We have eight counties and only one office in the middle of all of them," he said. "And when we looked at the zip codes of our members, we saw that most came from the same county as our office."

While the CU could not afford to open more branches, its board knew it had to do something to attract more members from SEGs.

Quite honestly, Simpkins said, "We're doing a really poor job." For example, he said, one of its SEGs-most are education related-has well over 1,000 employees, of which just 140 are members.

That's the reason the credit union has spent $125,000 to acquire a 38-foot long recreational vehicle equipped with two ATMs, two offices and a high-tech security system and dubbed CORE Xpress. "This one was previously owned by Wells Fargo Bank," Simpkins said, noting that it included $80,000 worth of custom "extras" such as the two ATMs that can cash checks and print check documents, he said.

Originally priced at $380,000, Simpkins said the ATMs alone are probably worth close to the price his CU paid for the entire package.

"In the six years that Wells Fargo owned it, they just didn't use it much," he said. "What we paid for the entire thing was probably the cost of the ATM machines alone."

The mobile branch was expected to make its first run in mid-December, after training seven of its staff to get the required commercial drivers licenses, cross-training the two primary staffers to operate it and putting together a list of scheduled stops.

Simpkins said CORE Credit Union also had to get licenses from Diebold to operate the ATMS and find a wireless provider that could serve the ATMs.

Custom painted blue and white with the CU's logo dominating the sides in what Simpkins calls a "cool" design, the mobile branch will make regular stops-some weekly, some monthly depending on the number of employees-to its SEGs.

Simpkins said a high-tech security system that includes anti-tow devices, an automatic alarm system and two sets of passwords to start the engine helps minimize worries about the safety of the employees who will staff the mobile branch. It also helps, he said, that the vehicle will be parked on the property of the SEGs, where company representatives will likely join the two employees on board.

While a sign outside the bus will declare there is no cash inside, Simpkins said members would be able to conduct the same business that they would at its main branch, including check cashing and applying for loans.

"We will have a teller and a loan clerk and an online lending system that has its own decision tree," he said.

Simpkins said as part of its ongoing efforts to educate area students about finances, the unit would also be used as a teaching tool to demonstrate the advances in financial technology.

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