CFCU opens new transformation center

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On June 3, CFCU Community Credit Union opened its first-ever Transformation Center – a location with all the capabilities of a regular branch office with the added purpose of providing an innovative space to test out new technologies with real members.

The Transformation Center and administrative offices are in the Bank Tower building on the Ithaca Commons at 202 E. State St. across from Center Ithaca. The center includes recently developed banking technology like palm readers for identity verification, interactive touch tables and virtual teller machines (VTMs), as well as features like a genius bar, innovation lounge and collaboration room.

Paul Kirk, chief financial officer at the Transformation Center, said he sees the center as CFCU’s way of being a bank of the future, keeping with the trends of surrounding financial institutions. It is also providing a space for the company to show all the technologies that are constantly evolving and coming out for members to use.

“There’s a lot going on in the financial world right now with digital transformations of new technologies coming out rapidly,” Kirk said. “So, we wanted to do something a little bit different that we could still do all of the traditional things that you can do at a regular bank branch but try to showcase some of those technologies.”

The Transformation Center is a full-service branch, so anything a member could do at a regular CFCU branch can be done there as well. What makes it different are the new technologies spread throughout the center, all designed for the members to try out and provide feedback on.

The palm scanner scans vein flow and uses that as a more secure identification method. The VTMs can perform anything an ATM can in addition to other features like cashing checks, depositing funds, transferring money and other services human tellers have traditionally provided. The collaboration room allows for a more private setting to talk to members, while the innovation lounge acts as both a waiting room and a future site to showcase new technologies and have members try them out.

“As new technologies come out, we want to be able to bring them in here, let our members come in, try them out, and we survey members after they’re done,” Kirk said. “The goal is to get the feedback from them and maybe deploy some pieces to different locations across our other branches.”
Chief Retail Officer Beth Putnam put it a bit more simply.

“This is where we will always roll in the new technologies to roll out,” Putnam said.

The experience of coming into the center was designed to be as inviting and interactive as possible, Kirk said, as that hands-on approach will provide the best and most accurate feedback.

“It’s meant for people to come in and try it for themselves,” Kirk said.
Putnam said she is glad that CFCU has this center downtown, where it is convenient for members and employees alike.

“We’re excited to come downtown because we’re a community credit union, and we felt that downtown would love to have a credit union convenient for the people that live and work downtown,” Putnam said. “It’s a place we haven’t been before, and it’s a great time to be coming.”

The Transformation Center has 30 employees, or universal associates, as they are called there, and utilizes 14,000 square feet in an historic downtown building. The process of integrating the site with the new technology was a little challenging, and Kirk said the staff is still adjusting to the new space.

Putnam and Kirk said even though the June 3 opening was soft, enough people have come in to provide significant, positive feedback about the whole experience of the center.

“We’re seeing not only new faces come in every day but starting to see people who are now making the Transformation Center their regular place,” Putnam said. “People are enjoying the new technologies.”

Universal Associate Stephen Weston said he has seen that enjoyment firsthand. Though some people have come in both surprised and frustrated at the way the center breaks with tradition, he said most like the change.

“The feedback has been very good,” Weston said. “There’s obviously been a few that walk in and are like, where’s the teller line, … but 98% of people have been very excited.”

The universal associates are enjoying the new center, too. Weston said he was originally working at the CFCU Triphammer location and likes this center better for its layout and welcoming atmosphere.

“I really enjoy it because it’s a nice, big open space,” Weston said. “It’s a real inviting area. It’s relaxed. People can come in, and you don’t feel the uptightness of a traditional [branch].”

Kirk said the Transformation Center allows members to be a part of the innovative process and help determine what technologies get put in other surrounding branches.

“It gives us an opportunity to have our members help guide our direction so that we can bring in things that are being developed and worked on now … and let our members tell us what they like, what they’ll use,” Kirk said.
Weston agreed, saying this center shows CFCU is preparing for the new age of technology.

“This is probably the future of banking, this kind of branch area,” Weston said. “I thought it was a good opportunity to be on the leading edge of this kind of advance into the new age of banking.”

This has been a project years in the making, Kirk said, from the early planning stages to finding a site and building the center itself. It represents a significant financial investment for CFCU as well, which is why Kirk is hoping member feedback can help make that money go where it will work best.

“Getting member feedback allows us to be smart about future investments,” Kirk said.

The Transformation Center is meant to be the only one of its kind in the area so it can serve as a testing grounds of sorts for technology to be implemented elsewhere. As CFCU receives more feedback on the center, that will determine its future – what technology will be brought in and what needs to change in the center itself.

Kirk said CFCU will launch a more official grand opening in the coming weeks once official signage has been completed. For now, he and the rest of the team are spreading the word around through advertisements, press releases and word of mouth.

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