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Numerica ending shared branching for members as credit union weighs cost, benefit

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 19, 2020

The drive-through ATM at the Numerica Credit Union branch at 301 E. Lyons Ave. in Spokane in shown on Dec. 5, 2017. Numerica Credit Union informed its members this week it will be ending shared branching on Oct. 30. Shared branching allows customers to bank at other credit unions that participate.   (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
The drive-through ATM at the Numerica Credit Union branch at 301 E. Lyons Ave. in Spokane in shown on Dec. 5, 2017. Numerica Credit Union informed its members this week it will be ending shared branching on Oct. 30. Shared branching allows customers to bank at other credit unions that participate.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
By Thomas Clouse The Spokesman-Review

Numerica Credit Union has informed its members it will be ending shared branching, which allows them to do their banking at other institutions that also pay into a national service designed to make banking easier.

The process, called shared branching, will end for Numerica’s 156,843 members on Oct. 30. Numerica has 13 physical locations in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas.

Mark Fox, a senior vice president for Numerica, said he understands the decision might cause his company to lose customers. That’s why notices were sent this week to announce the pending change.

“Our goal is to communicate to as many members as possible,” Fox said. “This is not something we are trying to keep secret.”

One of Numerica’s main competitors, Spokane Teachers Credit Union, also suspended shared branching, but for different reasons, spokesman Dan Hansen said.

STCU suspended its shared branching during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As the signs explain, this is due to COVID-19 and our efforts to provide space for social distancing,” Hansen said.

STCU has about 207,000 members and 25 physical locations in the Spokane area, North Idaho and the Tri-Cities.

“Our current contract with CO-OP runs through March,” Hansen said. “We constantly evaluate the effectiveness of everything we do to serve members and the community.”

Horizon Credit Union, which has customers in Eastern Washington, North Idaho, Montana and Oregon, does not offer the shared-branching service, which is set up by the CO-OP Shared Branch, a national service that coordinates shared branching for 1,852 credit unions nationwide, according to its website.

Fox, of Numerica, said that its pending Oct. 30 shared branching shutdown coincides with the end of its deal with CO-OP Shared Branch.

“During the past year, the cost (for CO-OP Shared Branch) has nearly doubled,” he said. “It wasn’t just that it was a cost savings. It was a cost relative to the benefits that our members were getting. The transaction volumes have been on a steady downward trend.”

The pending change isn’t the first time Numerica has altered its shared branching options. In 2015, it stopped allowing members from other credit unions from using its locations for business, Fox said.

“In 2015 … we determined it wasn’t practical to continue accepting the volume of guest members,” Fox said. “We were helping more guest members than our members. It was difficult to serve our members at the level we wanted to. So, we decided to stop accepting guest members at that time.”

At the same time that shared branching may be coming to an end, Numerica has other options. Fox noted Numerica was one of the first local banking institutions that allowed what’s called “mobile deposits” that lets its customers make deposits by taking cell phone photographs of their checks.

“We are a cooperative, member-owned institution,” Fox said. “We have a responsibility to be good stewards for our members. There are other options. The question is, is the value of the service equal to the cost? Numerica will continue to invest in robust digital offerings to meet our members’ needs when they are unable to visit a Numerica branch.”

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Reporter Thomas Clouse can be reached at (509) 953-0561 or at tomc@spokesman.com

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