By Ray Birch
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.—Shared branching is about to enter a "new era,” according to CO-OP Financial Services.
CO-OP Shared Branch is currently undergoing a revamping and updating that will include technology and service upgrades to integrate the network more seamlessly into the CO-OP ecosystem, the company said.
“Among the benefits will be a streamlined client experience, and improved data analytics and reporting,” said Kathy Herziger-Snider, SVP shared branch. “Fraud detection based on machine learning will provide a significant boost in security. And new approaches to self-service technology and innovation will encourage new ideas from both inside and outside the industry.”
CO-OP’s shared branching transformation is part of the company’s larger effort to create a “unified ecosystem” that includes credit and debit processing, ATM network, call center and shared branching—as well as new initiatives that will aggregate data, promote new business intelligence tools, deploy new security technology and unveil a new client experience, the company said.
“The goal is for the totality of CO-OP’s networks, products and services to work together as a seamless whole, to create a better experience for clients and their members, and to facilitate continuous innovation going forward,” Herziger-Snider told CUToday.info.
An Idea That Still Has Big Value
Shared branching is an “old idea” that still has tremendous value to credit unions and their members, Herziger-Snider said. “It is founded on the spirit of collaboration and cooperation that is unique to credit unions.”
Despite the rapid advancement of digital services, consumers still have a strong desire to visit branches and credit unions need a way to expand their footprint and compete with banks without having to build a lot of new locations, Herziger-Snider said.
“We will continue the march toward digital, but the branch network is still a big consideration among consumers when they make a decision about a financial institution,” said Herziger-Snider. “So for times when people still need a branch, shared branching is still very relevant.”
A key change CO-OP is making is consolidating all of the legacy platforms that have become part of the network as it was built over the years. CO-OP Shared Branch has 5,600 locations across the country and is considered the second-largest branch network in the U.S. Wells Fargo, which has just over 6,000 branches, is the largest.
“It’s a tremendous commitment in resources and dollars to consolidate the network’s various platforms,” Herziger-Snider said. “It’s an old legacy network made up of multiple networks joined together…When you have one single platform you can put all of your technology investments into one spot, not trying to do different things to different systems.”
Platform consolidation began in 2017 and a great deal of progress has been made, she said.
“We reached a significant milestone with that in October of 2017,” Herziger-Snider said. “Throughout 2018 we will continue the platform consolidation.”
CO-OP in April will also release new operating rules around the network and later this year will introduce new fraud detection capabilities backed by machine learning for CO-OP Shared Branch, Herziger-Snider said.
“We are also looking at some new kiosk and authentication and enrollment alternatives, but that might spill over into 2019,” she explained.
Changes Based On CU Feedback
Herziger-Snider said CO-OP is making changes based on listening to shared branch clients and responding to their concerns. She acknowledged that some credit unions in the network are concerned about being able to serve their own members effectively due to shared branch traffic. CO-OP is looking at the network’s structure and service guidelines to ensure that participation is sustainable for everyone.
As CUToday.info reported, the $1.28-billion Altura CU in Riverside, Calf., has decided to step back from shared branching due to long branch wait times created by shared branch members.
“We are looking at new ways to service members that will include new kiosks,” Herziger-Snider said. “Shared branching is not just people standing—wherever possible we will see where we can insert technology into that service model to make it faster and easier. It’s a journey we are on, and over time we will create better more seamless consumer experiences to drive participation and growth within the network.”