Making the Space to “Act Different”: The Second Step in America First’s Transformation

This post is guest authored by Jeremy Deamer, Manager of Branch Systems Development for America First Credit Union

As the manager of branch systems development for America First, you’ll find me at a different branch in our network on any given day. So even though building our Innovation Center has been a key project for me, I’m not there every day. But on a recent visit, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the transformative nature of this amazing space.

A woman in her 80s came into the credit union with a group of her friends. I approached her to see if she needed help – but before I could get to her, a colleague stopped me in my tracks.

“She’s one of our regulars,” he said. “She brought her friends in to tour the space.”

Talk about an eye-opening experience. When we first introduced the idea of an innovation center where members could come in and try out new technology, I imagined a place where people of all ages would feel comfortable and excited – and here it was, playing out in front of my eyes.

Similarly, a couple of 10 year olds were checking out one of the touch tables in the space where members can play videos, move objects and information around and interact. One of the coolest things I’ve seen is kids picking up one of the Lucite pucks on investment banking, putting it on the table and swiping through information about investments and retirement. What better way to introduce ourselves as financial experts than to give kids their first taste of what a financial institution can provide?

The Perfect Blend
Our ATM Services Manager, Chad Lynch, recently wrote about the inspiration and teamwork that led us to open the Innovation Center in his recent blog post. One of the only parameters set by our executive team was that the center needed to be able to do everything our other branches could do. We spent months poring over the transaction sets that are offered at existing branches, to determine how those transactions could be done without a teller line, loan officers and desks, but utilizing new and exciting technologies.

We engaged with unexpected partners to build solutions that aren’t part of the “normal” banking experience. Adrenaline, a branding company based in Atlanta, helped us create a unique space with video walls, touch tables, In Lobby Tellers (ILT), mobile devices and more. We solicited the very best in technology from the most advanced and well-known companies to make the center a reality, including Diebold Nixdorf. Working with their team, we implemented an in-lobby terminal that can do both traditional transactions and some new ones that are important to our members, such as printing cashier’s checks and money orders.

Early Lessons
Since we didn’t have a teller line or loan desks in this new space, we thought the staffing requirements would be minimal. We quickly realized, however, that our mall location meant we needed to provide staffing that matched the mall’s extended hours – and offer enough staffers to be able to give members personal attention and education on the new tech.

Our 10 crew members dress casually, and we like to think of them as concierges, not tellers or salespeople. They’re all highly knowledgeable about the products and services, but they don’t perform transactions. Instead, their goal is to educate and assist members in finding the right solution for their individual needs.

For instance, if a member comes in to cash a check, one of the concierges will meet them at the front door, welcome them and ask what they would like to do. They’ll get some information from the member and suggest: “Have you ever used our mobile deposit? Let me walk you over to our device bar.” Then, either on our phone or one of our devices the crew member will show the member how they can take a picture of that check and make the deposit. If push comes to shove and they want the traditional service, we have the technology using service devices, check scanners and receipt printers. But we rarely see that as being the choice. People are excited about using new technology and about the options in the space. Nine times out of 10 they are willing to go to one of the solutions and learn.

It’s been incredibly gratifying to see the high rates of acceptance of the solutions we’ve installed. For some of our members, the Innovation Center has become their home branch. And the support and real-time feedback we receive is giving us critical information we can use as we locate, design and build new branches. The center was designed from the ground up to change the way we all think about and engage with our members and with technology. We all take a great deal of pride in this new space – it’s helping us chart our future, and that makes it one of the most exciting projects of my entire career.

Watch for the final post in this series about how the Innovation Center has transformed the mission and philosophy of America First, and encouraged every employee to “Be different.”

Jeremy Deamer / Manager, Branch Systems Development,  America First Credit Union
Jeremy Deamer has worked for America First Credit Union for 14 years. He started his career as a teller and loan officer before moving into back office systems, helping to support the teller transactional systems. In 2008 he helped to oversee the implementation and creation of a new teller system that included the creation of real-time check scanning, pin pad integration for preview and approval, and cash machine integrations. He currently serves as the Manager of Branch Systems Development and oversees the Credit Unions Loan Origination System and Teller Transactional Systems. Over the last two years, he has managed the implementation of another AFCU “first,” the “America First Innovation Center” which opened in June of 2016.