Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, the largest non-bank financial institution in Minnesota with state-based assets, will pilot a non-traditional branch environment that attempts to transform the branch experience from transactional to empowering.
This environment combines a fluid branch layout that focuses on the needs of the members walking through the door and the use of technology from NCR Corporation (NCR) to not only engage members in the moment, but create an immersive member experience for members of all ages. Internet stations and a kid's play area are amongst the many features that will contribute to the experience.
Affinity Plus' member advisors are not restricted based on limitations with traditional banking roles of teller and loan officer; instead, member advisors view each interaction with members not as a simple transaction but rather a partnership. It may start as a simple account transaction, and lead to a consumer or home loan, or discussions about budgeting and goal setting. Affinity Plus has designed more than 10 individual workstations to encourage member advisors to focus on the member in front of them. Each station includes automated recycling technology - TCRs - which prevents member advisors from being tied down to one location and allows members a place to comfortably discuss their needs. The TCRs will bring the member advisors into the middle of the branch in an open-landscape environment for one-to-one consulting, while still handling cash, checks and money orders safely. The TCR technology also helps the member advisor to work more efficiently without the confusion of constant vault buys/sells or supervisor involvement.
"We want to create a unique and comfortable member experience in our branch that puts an emphasis on our relationship with the member. This pilot branch could change the shape and direction of all of our branches in the future," said Sarah Mason, senior vice president, Affinity Plus. "Several years ago, we realized that our traditional branch design was isolating our member advisors from truly interacting with our members. Standing in line and talking to a person behind a wall didn't achieve the level of personalization and relationship building that we would prefer for our members. Working with NCR and Case & Associates, we were able to build a branch concept that represents who we are as a credit union and helps us connect with our members."
This approach builds on a growing trend by financial institutions to reinvent their branch banking experience. According to Celent, more than three quarters of North American financial institutions surveyed indicated that expansion of new sales and service capabilities in the branch will drive technology decisions over the next three years.
"While there is great diversity among branch transformation initiatives," said Bob Meara, Senior Analyst in Celent's banking practice. "A common element is the use of transaction automation. Automating routine transactions, particularly those involving cash and checks, frees front line staff to better understand and meet customer needs."
NCR Cash Recycler is designed to drive efficiencies for financial institutions' branch transactions, move lines faster, free up staff time for better customer service, and promote cross-selling. The TCRs interface with the branch's teller application through NCR APTRA Cash Connect software to dispense and deposit cash securely and accurately without the need for a typical cash drawer. NCR APTRA Cash Connect software powers the TCR and is the most installed teller automation software in North America.
Affinity Plus worked hand-in-hand with NCR and NCR solutions partner Case & Associates. Case & Associates is an Anoka, Minn.-based financial services solutions provider, and a NCR solutions partner since 1996. NCR set up its new NCR Interact Global Partner program in 2011 and has seen its investment and focus deliver strong growth in partner engagements and new business. The company sees further significant new business opportunities for its channel partners in 2012 as it makes an extended portfolio of ATM, mobile banking and kiosk hardware and software available via its channel partners for the first time. This is in addition to a new set of finance, asset management and end-of-life recovery packages from CSI Leasing.