Shared branching is moving to the next level with the merger of CO-OP and FSCC

Shared branching is putting participating credit unions within shouting distance of big bank branch access. CO-OP Financial Services and Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) are merging to provide a credit union shared branching service under one management roof with more than 4,400 physical branches and 2,200 Vcom kiosk locations nationwide.

Credit unions have at their disposal the fourth largest network in the country, behind just three national banks. This truly enables credit unions to compete and win against banks in terms of the access and convenience they can offer their members.

As the financial services industry continues its crazy revolutionary evolution (think everything from Bank Transfer Day to the explosion of technology and the Durbin Amendment), cooperative access gives credit unions a fast edge. In this rapidly-changing environment, it’s hard to know what the right branch expansion strategy is. Shared branching enables credit unions to leverage their presence with significantly less risk. Better still: The cooperative nature of shared branching can help underscore the credit union difference to members.

Shared branching gives the credit union movement a huge boost, but there’s a slight hitch: Getting members to understand and use shared branching requires some effort. While most Americans automatically “get” how to use a network ATM, the idea of walking into another credit union’s branch to make a deposit isn’t necessarily intuitive.

If your credit union offers shared branching, promote it. Let members know they have shared branching access and explain –step-by-step – how they can do transactions at a shared branch. It isn’t difficult, but can feel daunting at first. And it requires information such as member/account number(s) and government-issued ID that members will want to have on hand when they go.

Why bother promoting shared branching? The number one reasonpeople switch financial institutions is “life circumstances.” Translation: They move out of your branch footprint. Expanding that footprint across the country makes your credit union exponentially more accessible.

On another cooperative note, CO-OP and FSCC look forward to the completion of their merger around the first of the year. The two companies expect the combination of shared branching services to not only provide a significant expansion of outlets for credit union members, but also greater efficiencies in branding, technology and administrative costs that can be redirected to more competitive pricing and enhanced patron dividends for network participants. Between the two companies, more than 1,700 credit unions nationwide participate in shared branching.

FSCC was created in 1990 and originally operated under a management agreement with CO-OP Financial Services (then known as CO-OP Network). CO-OP Financial Services entered the shared branching arena in June 2002 with the acquisition of Service Centers Corporation (SCC). In July 2007, CO-OP and Credit Union Service Corp. (CUSC) agreed to combine operations, now offered under the CO-OP Shared Branching brand.