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Credit Unions Expanding Reach Via Shared Branches & Networks

Credit Unions Expanding Reach Via Shared Branches & Networks

Imagine having access to over 5,600 bank branches and 30,000 ATMs worldwide — even if you're a member of a small local credit union. Through the power of shared branching, credit unions let you do just that!

In this post, we'll share some ways credit unions are revolutionizing the way we bank with vast banking networks that leverage shared branches.

You'll see very quickly how compelling this approach is. It's pivotal to expanding your access to banking and helping to provide you with unparalleled convenience.

What Are Shared Branches & Banking Networks?

Credit unions create banking networks through shared branches. Shared branches and the networks they form refer to a system in which credit unions collaborate with other financial institutions to extend their banking reach.

Through these partnerships, credit union members can access services and conduct transactions at partner branches — even if they are not directly affiliated with that particular credit union.

This is how a local one-branch credit union can pack the punch of a global banking provider with thousands of access points!

Networks in the Credit Union World

Banding together is common in the realm of credit unions. The individual credit unions often use a financial solutions provider to join forces. The vast, distributed network they form can span across cities, states, and even countries, giving credit union members extensive access to banking services.

Collaborative networks are a game changer for credit unions. No longer are you limited to just one physical branch location. With shared branching, your banking networks expand exponentially. These networks make it possible for you to walk into any participating location — even one on the other side of the country — and still manage your accounts and make transactions.

Using an ATM

How Do Shared Branches & Banking Networks Enhance Credit Union Reach?

Banking networks enable credit unions to tap in to the resources of other totally separate financial institutions. Through shared branches, credit unions leverage their affiliate's infrastructure and technology and overcome the limitations of their individual branch networks.

Members benefit by having access to a wider range of services and locations and a seamless experience when they're away from their local credit union branch. This teaming up ensures that members have accessible and reliable banking options wherever they go and also helps foster a sense of community within the credit union world.

But, accessing your accounts and performing various banking transactions is just the tip of the iceberg. Credit unions have partner branches for several reasons, including:

Increasing Geographic Presence

Unsurprisingly, there are loads of benefits to having more than a single hometown credit union branch at your disposal.

  • Surmounts physical boundaries and a limited number of branches
  • Provides access to banking services near members' homes or workplaces
  • Offers banking convenience when traveling domestically or outside the US
  • Increases the availability of ATMs — and not just at other banking locations!
  • Gives members more convenience and flexibility in managing their finances
  • Reduces the need for members to switch banks or have accounts spread across multiple financial institutions

Sharing Financial Resources

Banking networks create a scenario akin to all the credit unions being in a boat and rowing in the same direction. It helps both the credit unions and their members in a number of ways.

  • Optimizes credit unions' use of resources, reducing costs associated with building and maintaining multiple branches and enabling credit unions to allocate resources to other areas (e.g., improving technology or enhancing member benefits)
  • Pools assets among credit union partners, which can help them offer members a wider range of products and services
  • Unites the credit unions so they are stronger and have greater visibility and leverage

Streamlined Member Services

Through shared branching, credit union members can enjoy seamless banking services. As long as you're within the network, you can bank as if you were at your home location.

  • Gives credit union members consistent access to accounts and the ability to easily conduct transactions regardless of location
  • Eliminates the need for members to adjust to different banking processes or systems across network branches
  • Helps ensure members have a smoother, more familiar way of banking

Better Customer Experience

Partner branches provide access to knowledgeable staff who can assist credit union members with their financial needs, ensuring a more personalized and customer-centric banking interaction.

  • Makes banking easier and suited to members’ needs and preferences
  • Offers a banking touchpoint when away from home
  • Provides a bigger network trusted, community-oriented, and service-minded branches

Using a shared atm

Technology’s Role in Expanding Reach

While the concepts of shared branching and banking networks have been around for a long time, today they really flourish — and better serve customers — thanks to cutting-edge technology. Technology helps credit unions grow and evolve toward a bright future.

Modern Banking Solutions

Technology plays a crucial role in facilitating shared branching and banking networks. It's the underpinning of any robust, dynamic, and powerful banking solution.

This is because establishing sound infrastructure and integrating back-end systems within and across credit unions is complex and ever-changing. Plus, it requires processing and tracking massive amounts of information.

By leveraging advanced hardware and software, credit unions can hone their operations, enhance efficiency, and improve the overall customer experience. These solutions connect various components — like core banking systems, transaction processing systems, and customer relationship management platforms — to create a cohesive network. Additionally, they enable real-time data sharing, centralized management of accounts and transactions, and communication between branches. All of this, collectively, benefits members.

Digital Platforms & Mobile Banking

No credit union would be complete (or competitive!) without a full suite of virtual banking options. Leaning in to digital platforms — like online and mobile banking — is part and parcel of credit unions that participate in a shared branch network.

Members expect these tools. The minimum bar has been raised!

These technologies enhance convenience, connectivity, and services credit union members deserve and demand. With contemporary interfaces, members can access their accounts, perform transactions, and engage in countless banking services anytime, anywhere.

Security Protocols in Affiliated Branches

Credit unions already enjoy a reputation for being trustworthy and safeguarding deposits. But does this persist once a credit union's part of a large syndicate of financial institutions? And if so, how?

The safety of member data and transactions is paramount and prioritized by credit unions. After all, credit unions are member-owned. For this reason, they put forth a lot of effort and resources to secure their systems and locations.

Some of the most common security measures credit unions employ include:

  • State-of-the-art encryption to protect sensitive information
  • Multi-factor authentication to verify user identities
  • Secure network connections to prevent unauthorized access
  • Regular monitoring and auditing of systems to help promptly detect and address any potential security threats
  • Staff training, policies, and procedures related to anti-money laundering, privacy regulations, and confidentiality

Choosing a Credit Union with a Robust Network

“Go big or go home.” seems like an appropriate statement here!

When thinking about joining a credit union, it’s key to pick one that really works for you and your lifestyle. If you’re an on-the-go kind of person — you’re going to be better served by a credit union that’s got the backing of a sizable and reputable network with tons of shared branches, accessible ATMs, and user-friendly tech.

For example, Valley Credit Union is part of a syndicate managed by CO-OP Financial Services. As such, here are just a handful of VCU's network allies and attributes:

  • 100s of independent participating credit unions
  • 5,600+ shared branches across all 50 US states (plus Puerto Rico and Guam) and several countries abroad
  • 30,000 no-fees ATMs including about 1,700 in Oregon/Washington and terminals at many widespread retail locations like Costco and Walgreens
  • Online banking, mobile banking, online bill pay, remote deposits, estatements

Things to Consider

As you do your research into credit unions, you’ll want to learn certain defining characteristics before making a decision. For each credit union on your shortlist, you should understand its:

  • Network scope. Are they part of a banking network with shared branches? How many branches and ATMs will you be able to access? Are there ATMs and branches in the geographic locations you’ll be living or visiting?
  • Digital integration. Do they offer online and mobile banking?
  • Security precautions. How are they working to keep deposits safe? How financially and technologically resilient is the credit union? 
  • Member sentiment. What do current and past members and staff say? What kind of ratings does the credit union get? Are testimonials generally positive? Do the credit unions respond favorably to reviews and feedback?

Potential Pitfalls

You’ve done your due diligence and are on the verge of selecting a credit union.

But, what should you watch out for?

Perhaps the main red flags would be credit unions that:

  • Don’t fit your needs in terms of offerings, service delivery, and so on
  • Aren’t part of an established, reputable, and substantial network
  • Lack adequate systems, technology, etc. to serve members and secure operations
  • Have a legacy of poor reviews, performance problems, or compliance issues

That said, it’s up to you to decide where the deal-breaker line is.

Looking at phone finding shared branches in the area

Take the Next Step with the Network Advantage

Whether you want to join a credit union or already belong to one and want to get the most out of it, keep in mind its shared branching capabilities. You'll be amazed at how banking networks can revolutionize your financial management experience.

At Valley Credit Union, shared branching is transforming the way our members bank every day. Our members love the ease and convenience of expanded access to bank branches and ATMs around the world. So don't restrict yourself to just one lone credit union location when you can have thousands available to you. Join a credit union today and unlock the power of shared branching!

About the Author

 Pat ForcePresident and CEO

Pat Force has been President and CEO of Valley Credit Union since 2016. He has worked in banking for over 30 years and has an MBA. Pat is passionate about credit unions and their “people helping people” philosophy. He enjoys collaborating with others to arrive at a result that works for the common good. Away from the office, Pat likes to spend time with family, travel, read and go for a nice, long hike.

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