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The Evolution of Shared Branching
Friday, June 5, 2015 6:20 AM

CO-OP Shared Branching
Sarah Canepa Bang, president/COO, FSCC, and Stan Hollen, president/CEO, CO-OP Financial Services.

Over the last 45 years, shared branching has evolved from a conceptual plan between a handful of credit unions to the fourth largest branch network among financial institutions. The idea of sharing facilities and manpower with competitors might sound unimaginable in some business sectors, but for credit unions that stand behind the philosophy of “people helping people,” it just makes sense.

Today, members can conduct financial transactions just as if they were in their home branch at more than 1,700 credit unions representing 5,000 branches in every state and at locations around the world. 

An Idea Was Born

The inspiration for shared branching originated in Michigan in the late 1960s and early 1970s when a group of innovative credit union leaders from the Detroit area reacted to a study on a checkless/cashless society predicted for the 1980s. The study conveyed the need for more service delivery accessibility options if credit unions were to remain viable. To minimize costs associated with proprietary branches, five credit union CEOs decided to develop an operation where they would share branches in the Michigan area, thus forming Service Centers Corporation (SCC).

Building off this idea, years later Credit Union Service Corporation (CUSC) was formed by eight Southeastern credit unions. The organization conducted the first interstate transaction in 1993 at a service center located in Savannah, Georgia, catapulting shared branching to new levels and opportunities for growth. Meanwhile, Financial Service Centers Corporation (FSCC), based out of Ontario, California, was operating another shared branching network with most of their credit unions in the Western states, making three shared branching networks across the country.

Cooperating to Compete

In the 1990s, the brand “Credit Union Service Center” and the swirl logo were established between the networks, making it easy for members to spot shared branching locations. Although the networks were competitors, they needed to work together for the concept to realize success, much like the credit unions participating in shared branching.

The Next Generation of Shared Branching

In 1998, in the midst of a growing concern about the Year 2000 and its impact on shared branching, CUSC established a strong vision that would allow credit unions to have more influence on the EFT transaction process. This vision grew into the idea of a credit union owned and operated switch, affording credit unions controlled costs and a multitude of other advantages.  As a result, the Next Generation Network (NGN) infrastructure was installed and implemented. Not only did NGN reduce costs for participating credit unions, but the new switch technology also offered greater information capacity, increased fraud protection, and more opportunities for product innovation.

Creating Synergies with CO-OP Shared Branching

CO-OP Financial Services, based out of Rancho Cucamonga, California, was quickly becoming the largest Credit Union Service Organization in the United States, with its ATM network growing rapidly through the 1990s and 2000s. Seeing an opportunity in the shared branching marketplace, CO-OP purchased SCC in 2002, thus forming CO-OP Shared Branching.

Five years later, the CUSC board of directors approved the decision to combine with CO-OP Financial Services and became a part of CO-OP Shared Branching.  By joining together, the two entities not only became the largest shared branching network, but also created efficiencies for credit unions that led to a clearer identity in the marketplace, an increase in productivity for both entities, and new branding campaigns that resulted in further shared branching penetration.

The Final Ingredient

While CO-OP Shared Branching continued operating out of its headquarters in Duluth, Georgia, and Southfield, Michigan, FSCC was still making traction on their own, predominantly in the Western states. After years of operating separately, FSCC signed a letter of intent to combine with CO-OP Financial Services on September 20, 2011. The combination was completed in January of 2012, making the two organizations one company as of the New Year. The agreement truly represents a “coming full circle” for FSCC as a business. FSCC was created in 1990 and originally operated under a management agreement with CO-OP Financial Services (then known as CO-OP Network). In 1999, as Chairman of the Board of FSCC, Stan Hollen, now president/CEO of CO-OP Financial Services, hired Sarah Canepa Bang as FSCC president/CEO.

The agreement marks a bringing together of all the major pieces of the credit union movement’s decades-old shared branching initiative. The combination of shared branching services will not only provide a significant expansion of locations  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. The combination of CO-OP and FSCC blends the strengths and value of both companies, creating a more tightly integrated and efficient shared branching network for the movement.

Extending Member Service and Convenience

While banks are shuttering branches, CO-OP Shared Branching is continuing network growth, with 428 shared branching outlets opened in 2011. This expansion truly enables credit unions to compete and win against banks in terms of the access and convenience they can offer their members. With CO-OP Shared Branching, credit unions offer members the security of a local credit union, coupled with the convenience of a branch network the size of the largest of banks.

Powered by the Next Generation Network (NGN), shared branching is just one of an array of products offered by CO-OP Financial Services that give credit unions the touch points they need to reach every member demographic. Through one streamlined, cost-effective, technologically advanced platform, CO-OP aggregates convenience-based services.

Nearing 30 years of credit union service, CO-OP also connects credit union members to their accounts through network services and payment processing. With a total of 3,000 credit union members, 30 million cardholders, 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs, and 160 million-plus monthly transactions, CO-OP Financial Services is the nation’s largest Credit Union Service Organization.

To find out more about how CO-OP Shared Branching can meet your members’ account access needs, please contact Brian McCue, Norma Garza, and Cheryl Sayers in the Remote Transactions area are all available to answer questions. 

CO-OP Financial Services is an endorsed business partner of Credit Union Resources, Inc. and an industry leader in access and convenience products for credit unions. With more than 30 years of credit union service, CO-OP connects credit union members to their accounts through network services, payment processing, e-commerce, CO-OP shared branching, and call center services. A total of 3,500 member credit unions, 30 million cardholders, nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs, more than 5,000 shared branch locations, and 200 million-plus monthly transactions make CO-OP Financial Services the nation's largest credit union service organization offering resources that enable deeper member engagement to help credit unions prosper. To learn more visit