Our new store story

June 26, 2014
in Strategy
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Why we're moving away from the traditional branch

In late June, Envision Financial’s newest location, Garrison Village, joined the 40-plus First West branch network. But unlike its predecessors, Garrison Village marks a new generation of brick-and-mortar banking and is the cornerstone of our new store concept.

“Our approach to branching is changing because banking is changing.”

What makes it so unique? At Garrison, there are no wicket queues and no tellers. We’ve even changed out the branch manager for a store leader—and not just any store leader. We chose the long-time manager of our largest branch—a location with more than $700 million under administration—to run the new shop and lead the store team in building the business from scratch.

Yes, pretty much everything about our newest full-service location marks a fundamental shift in our thinking, in our approach to banking, branches and the member experience. You see, our approach to branching is changing because banking is changing.

I came across a quote recently that illustrates the pressure of change in banking, looking at it from a different angle:

“I realize this is a strange confession from the head of the British Bankers’ Association, but I haven’t visited my branch since last year—and I’m not alone.”

– Anthony Browne, CEO British Bankers’ Association

The comment speaks to a few things, but one of the most obvious is the exponential increase in remote or mobile banking. As other industries and retailers make it easier and easier to do business with them from anywhere at anytime, there comes an expectation that we do the same. Growing our business will depend more and more on ease and access.

Good, old-fashioned shoe-leather marketing
With our Garrison Village store, we’ve changed things up to meet those demands. The biggest shift is in running the branch. Gone are sole-focus roles, such as tellers, giving way to universal banking reps (or what we like to call our Money Experts and Money Advisors) that have breadth of skill to perform everything from everyday banking to investment advice and transactions. And where specialized advice is required, technology plays a bigger role at Garrision Village than any of our branches have seen before. Though the branch is our smallest footprint to date, through current video conferencing technology, we have the ability to connect members with our financial experts, no matter where they are.

We’ve taken the branch manager from the back corner office and given her presence right out front, in plain sight and within earshot and arm’s reach of members as they enter. As the store leader, she’ll spend a good deal of time greeting members and building relationships with them, as well as performing everyday banking transactions. Gone too are designated, desk-centred offices, making way for meeting spaces designed to make the flow of business more open and relational.

But perhaps the single most important change is our approach to growing the business. Business development is no longer the responsibility of just one or two roles in the branch. Every person in the Garrison Village store will spend time in the community, literally pounding the pavement and building relationships and serving members where they are, rather than expecting them to come to us.

Though the Garrison Village store concept is new to us, we recognize we’re not the first to take this approach. A number of banks have very successfully implemented it and so have a handful of credit unions. But for us at Envision Financial, and more broadly at First West, it marks another example of how our credit union is reinventing itself again to remain relevant for today’s consumer. It’s an exciting new chapter in our story as we shift to keep in step with the market and our industry.

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