The plan was to try to get as many members to voluntarily move over to virtual branching.
We spelled out the benefits to our Board and why this strategy was not just a good idea, but necessary.
REDUCE OPERATING EXPENSES
Branch wear and tear, utilities, copiers, printers, landlines, post-its (you'd be shocked).... it all adds up! We reduced operating expenses by $200K in our first two years of going completely virtual.
GROW TARGETED MEMBERSHIP
We can now confidently target specifically to our low-income targed population (LITP) throughout our 19-county field of membership, including financial deserts. Before becoming entirely virtual, we were held back by the physical limitations of our brick-and-mortar branch locations. With the technological advancements in target marketing, geofencing, social media, and digital ads, we can afford to cast a wider net.
COMMUNITY BRANCH USAGE
Soon, we hope to refurbish our branches for our community partners to serve the LITP further as well as help keep their overhead costs lower-- a true partnership!
REALLOCATE STAFF FOR INCOME
For a lot of small credit unions, you have a large percentage of your staff sitting behind a teller line, waiting to cash a check. We needed more staff focused on actions that generated income, but we couldn't afford to hire. Virtual branching transitioned our front-line team members into loan officers, marketing, and risk (reduced charge-backs by $30k in 1st year). We saw an increase of 80% in new direct loan volume the first year and an additional 30% in year two.
BETTER BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Having strong connections with businesses and non-profits assists in growing membership. However, this initiative can be stifled if many of their employees/clients live outside the area of our physical branches.
The virtual branching initiative solved this challenge, bringing greater confidence to these businesses to work with us.
We had three branches. In 2019 we were able to close our first branch. The second branch was down to less than 10 members a day coming into the branch. The plan was to close the second (main) branch 2Q2020.
Next, we identified three metrics as critical levers to determine Virtual Branching’s success.
1. Number of member complaints escalated to senior leadership or social media. We had less than twenty in all.
2. Number and profitability of closed memberships for virtual reasons. A total of only 34 accounts were closed, and the profitability of these accounts was negative.
On March 17, 2020, we 'temporarily closed' the final two branches due to COVID and shifted 100% to virtual branching. The pandemic enabled us to see how members responded. To quantify the success or failure, we identified three critical metrics.
3. New direct loan volume booked.
80% increase in year one and another 30% increase in year two.
We pulled the trigger, and made the announcement we were staying with our virtual branches after the twenty-first month of being 'temporarily closed.' We softened the potential blow by giving a $65,000 profit-sharing dividend back to our members from our virtual branching savings.