Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New branches (in this economy?) are a success

MADISON, Wis. (6/10/09)--Some credit unions have announced branch closures as part of their belt-tightening during the recession. But others are experiencing success with newly opened branches--despite the nation's economic turmoil. How do they do it?

San Francisco-based Patelco CU is reporting success with its new Financial Resource Center, which opened Feb. 17 in downtown Danville, Calif. The facility is the $4.129 billion asset credit union's 18th branch on the East Bay.

Since it opened, more than 525 people have joined the credit union at that location and are taking advantage of its products and services. It attributes its success to a series of community events and to its location.

During its first eight weeks of operation, the new branch played host to a number of community events, such as a Pet Adoption Day with Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, and a preview exhibition and reception for Danville Open Studios to promote local artists.

At its ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 16, five residents played Patelco's Mountain of Cash game for a chance to win up to $50,000. Although no one won the full amount, each contestant took home $250 for participating. More than 75 people attended that event.

The events, coupled with cross-promotions with other local merchants and a "perfect location," have propelled the new branch into one of Patelco's most popular branches.

"In a time when many banks and credit unions have unfortunately needed to close certain branches, ourselves included, it's great to see this location flourish. It truly is the perfect place for Patelco to make a difference to the community and the local economy," said Danville Branch Manager Toni Sciaky.

Ken Burns, Patelco's new CEO, noted that the credit union "is continuing to expand in certain key market areas, and we are certainly glad to see that not-for-profit, community-minded banking has struck a chord with Danville residents."

Louisiana FCU, a $113.7 million asset credit union in La Place, La., opened its Gramercy branch in May in the heart of St. James Parish. The new location features a drive-up ATM, full-service lobby, and drive-through services (eNews June 3).

A ribbon cutting ceremony and some attractive specials helped drive business to the location. The credit union offered a five-month term share certificate special at a 5% rate through the end of the month. The offer brought $1 million in less than three weeks to the credit union.

The new ATM onsite dispersed random $50 bills instead of $20 bills as an incentive to drive traffic to the new machine. Members also received $100 when they opened a new checking account with direct deposit.

"It's exciting to see the community support the branch," said Mia Perez, director of marketing and business development. "We're happy to be able to provide alternative financial solutions to our members and potential members in this market."

Education First FCU, a $252.9 million asset credit union in Beaumont, Texas, is finding growth in a real-world lesson in what a local financial institution with a solid balance sheet can achieve, President Jimmy Lackey told The Beaumont Enterprise (June 4).

The credit union has expanded by seven offices in the past year, all of them in supermarkets in the area. As a result, Education First is building a $528,209 training center next to its main office. "We've added 30 employees in the last year. We needed a training facility," Lackey said.

The credit union saw an increase in assets of about 25% from last year, to its current $270 million assets. Lackey attributes the growth to the new locations.

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