Two credit unions that are adding branch locations in southeastern Wisconsin say growing their physical footprint is still vital to the services they offer members, even in an era when so much banking is done electronically.
“Those branches serve an important role in providing our members with options for how they choose to conduct their banking with us,” said Jay Magulski, president and chief executive officer of New Berlin-based Landmark Credit Union. “So what we are focused on is combining branches with our digital banking platform and our member service center. We want to make sure that Landmark members know they can conduct their banking with us when, where and how it best suits their individual needs.”
Since last spring, Landmark has opened, relocated or announced plans for six different branches. Twenty-five of the credit union’s 31 branches are located in southeastern Wisconsin.
Cottage Grove-based Summit Credit Union is also actively expanding, extending its area of influence eastward into the Milwaukee area. Its website lists 39 branches, with most clustered in the Madison and Milwaukee areas.
Becky Gerothanas, chief operations officer at Summit, said seven branches in southeastern Wisconsin have either recently opened, are under construction or are planned to open in the near future.
Summit opened a branch in New Berlin in July 2018, one in Oconomowoc in November 2018 and another in Brookfield this July. Construction of a new Waukesha branch is underway. It also has plans to open branches in the Freshwater Plaza development in Milwaukee and another in Oak Creek as part of a larger development that will be built across I-94 from IKEA.
Summit also owns property in Pewaukee, where it plans to construct a new location eventually.
“There’s no branch there yet and we don’t have an exact (development) timeframe, but Pewaukee is in our plans also,” Gerothanas said.
Landmark opened a new Muskego branch in spring 2018. This January, it relocated an in-store branch to a new freestanding branch in Franklin, and it plans to do the same thing with one of its two in-store locations in West Bend this fall. Landmark is also constructing a new branch in the town of Brookfield, has announced plans for a new Greenfield location and has purchased land in Glendale for another future branch.
Landmark is also building a new 158,000-square-foot headquarters in Brookfield, at 555 S. Executive Drive. Magulski said construction of the new office building is expected to be completed in spring 2021. Summit earlier this year moved into a new headquarters building of its own in Cottage Grove.
Both Summit and Landmark said brick-and-mortar branches are still important parts of the business, even with technology making it easier for members to do most of their banking online.
Gerothanas said Summit has found prospective members often look at which branches are nearby when choosing a financial institution. Many routine transactions are now done digitally, though there are plenty of other instances where people likely prefer a face-to-face interaction, she said.
“They like to come in when it’s time for a mortgage loan and they like to talk to somebody,” she said, adding the same goes for when people are applying for a small business loan or borrowing money to purchase a car.
Similarly, Magulski said branches provide members with options of how to conduct their business with Landmark.
“If someone wants to deposit a check via their smartphone, they can do that with us,” Magulski said. “And when they want to come in and have a face-to-face conversation with somebody to talk about establishing a savings plan, establishing some investment goals, talking about a home improvement project, we’re there for them.”
Magulski said Landmark considers “many factors” when evaluating where to put up a new branch, including proximity to current branches, site visibility, and the ingress and egress of the site, among others.
Gerothanas said Summit decides to open a branch if the location strengthens the existing network or if it would prove more convenient to members and better help homeowners looking to take out a mortgage on a home. Sometimes it is a matter of just finding the right opportunity.
Take Freshwater Plaza, for instance. The proposed Summit branch would be located on an outlot of the development, east of South First Street and north of East Greenfield Avenue. Freshwater Plaza features a four-story building with 76 apartment units and first floor retail space, a 46,000-square-foot Cermak Fresh Market and a Sherwin Williams paint store, with possibly more projects to come.
“It’s a really vibrant area of Milwaukee,” she said. “We think it’s an area that will continue to grow. We feel like it’s a good community, area of Milwaukee for us to be looking at.”