Convenience Matters #1: Why adding more hours can be worth it

This is the first in a series of articles about the things credit unions can do to better meet the needs of their members and potential members.

When I was the age of some of our young members, I had a job at a movie theater. It was next to a Fred Meyer. The day shift ended at 6:00 during the first summer I worked there, and I needed to pick a financial institution to cash those first paychecks.

My nearest options were the credit union I’d been a member of since I was 4 and the Washington Mutual in the Fred Meyer. I picked Washington Mutual for one reason — it was open until 7:00 pm. On paydays, I could walk across the parking lot after work, deposit my check and have it post immediately, and do a little grocery shopping if I needed it. (On a somewhat related note, this was also the beginning of my lifelong love of Fred Meyer, because after depositing my check, I could buy milk, cereal, saline solution, and contact lens cleaner without leaving the store.)

My credit union closed at 5:30 (or 6:00 on Fridays). And Saturday hours? Nothing doing. That meant I would have to wait until the next day to deposit my check or put it in an ATM and wait up to five days for it clear.

Times haven’t changed that much

No matter how much has changed in society and work, members still need access to branches that are nearby and available when they need it. Technology has solved some of the problems I experienced as a new member of the workforce, but there is still room for improvement for credit unions. Direct deposit, mobile deposit and ATMs offer quick access to cash from our paychecks, but there’s nothing like knowing you can go into a branch when you need to — before or after your shift starts or on a Saturday when you’re off work and school.

And this need isn’t limited to young members just entering the workforce. Many people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s work less traditional schedules that mean they can’t just drop by a branch to conduct business between 9:30 and 5:30 on weekdays. Working parents may have to choose between getting to daycare on time or hitting a branch.

We need to rethink “bankers’ hours”

Some credit unions have created a way to maximize availability for members while minimizing the extra costs of fully staffing branches and the potential safety issues for after-hours banking. Rivermark Credit Union in Oregon and Finex Credit Union in Connecticut offer video teller kiosks that bring a human touch to a technology-based interaction in five of their locations.

Members speak to a teller through a video interface — using their own earbuds and an on-screen keyboard if they want to keep their conversation completely private. They can cash checks, make deposits and withdrawals, and pay loans.

Rivermark’s kiosks are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am to 6 pm on Saturdays.

Finex’s? 8:00 am to 7:00 pm most weekdays, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays, and 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Sundays!

If my credit union had hours like that when I was working at the theater, they would have definitely been my PFI.

Banking locations need to shift, too

Finex (and other CUs throughout the country) have opened branches in grocery stores and drug stores. These locations offer the ability to be open more hours and the steady stream of store customers helps ensure employee safety in the evenings. They also offer that convenience that I loved about my Washington Mutual branch in my favorite grocery store — true one-stop shopping.

How are you working to become more convenient?

Adding extended hours is a big deal. It requires significant cultural and structural changes and commitment at all levels of the CU. But it can be worth it in the potential to attract more members — some of whom might be younger and willing to stick with you for the rest of their lives — and to provide better service to your current members.

Are you ready for extended hours? What other ways are you working to become more convenient to members?