Metro Detroit credit union shrinks branches, boosts proficiency for older members

WYANDOTTE, Mich. (FOX 2) - As modern technology continues to evolve the way people manage their money, banks are working hard to keep up with the best and most convenient methods for depositing and transferring their funds.

Brick and mortar branches are increasingly left out of that equation as phones do more of the work.

Michigan Legacy Credit Union has recognized the pattern, observing that the vast majority of their members never enter a branch location. But for the instution, enough of their customers still come in that their CEO saw an opportunity to capitalize on the crossroads they've since arrived at.

"Understanding how to survive financially in the future and what that is going to look like for financial institutions in a digital age, we decided to downsize our branches," said Carma Peters, Michigan Legacy Credit Union CEO. "So our new branch is only 1200 square feet."

Michigan Legacy Credit Union has been around for 76 years. But from the look of their branch in Wyandotte, the aesthetic inside looks more like a blast from the past.

Take their ATM. It resembles a jukebox, which is a nod to simpler times - which is something banking institutions know are not coming back.

In 2017, CEO Peters took a look at the numbers and found only 7% of their members physically enter their branches. Many of them are on the older side and tend to be less tech-savvy. So she thought 'why not make those customers as comfortable as possible."

And when they added comfort, they cut down on skepticism - enabling them to take things a bit further.

"What we did is we took out our teller lines. They're completely gone," said Peters.

In their stead is an introduction to technology that now governs many of the experiences people who walk into the branch locations now have.

"We have video stations that are full service. They can request certain staff or departments so they go to the subject matter experts," Peters said, adding "and if there's documents to sign, they pop up on the screen so they see the staff and the documents and it's seemless."

Each transaction is recorded with a photo and the IP address so employees know where it happened. As even the older customers grow adept at using the systems, they too are learning how to bank with their smartphone.

Their monthly video transactions used to be about 17 a month. They've since gone as high as 600.

And it's not just the customers who appreciate the experience - so are the employees. Peters said they plan to take all five Michigan Legacy branches "back to the future."

The Highland Park branch is next for renovation.