Education First FCU celebrates opening of Laurel Avenue branch

Education First Federal Credit Union celebrated the opening of its newest branch on Laurel Avenue with a ribbon cutting Wednesday, Oct. 18.

The 3,371-square-foot branch was designed to capture the distinctive brand identity of its recently completed administrative building, and further enhance members’ experience, a release from the company states.

The newly designed branch features “universal bankers” who are trained to provide all members with the full array of services offered by the credit union through an open and efficient design. This replaces the previous concept of having credit union employees specialize in different areas, explained Carolyn Ridout, VP of Marketing for Education First FCU.

“Universal bankers are people who are trained to do more than one thing. They can open an account, they can talk to you about mortgage services, so they’re educated in all areas,” Ridout said.

Traditional teller lines have been replaced by a cash bar, while individual offices will provide a place for new account openings and loan applications in a private setting.

The branch will also be the first Education First FCU location in the area to use a “cash recycler,” a machine that accepts and dispenses cash, stores money securely, keeps an accurate accounting of cash on hand, and automates the cash cycle.

“The tellers don’t have any cash” in drawers, said Joanna Alfaro, branch manager at the new Laurel location. “It all goes in and comes out of the machine. It’s safer, and there’s no balancing.”

Eric Cheng, of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, outlines the advantages a cash recycler has for banks, credit unions like Education First, and even retail stores in his article “Trends in Retail Cash Automation: A Market Overview of Retail Cash Handling Technologies.”

According to Cheng, benefits include:

  • Reduced Costs – Often a recycler is used to help with tasks such as till prepping, balancing and prepping bank deposits, resulting in significant time and labor savings. This allows banks and stores to move employees to other tasks, creating a more efficient workplace and saving money.
  • Increased Transaction Speed – Decreasing the time employees spend counting money, change or processing cash allows them to serve more customers. Cash recyclers also help make sure that transactions are accurate, even as they are processed faster.
  • Better Access to Cash – This is particularly true for banks as cash recyclers reduce the need for trips to the vault, freeing employees to work in other areas and focus on cross-selling products.
  • Improved Security – By replacing cash drawers and money that sits in the open, cash recyclers can improve security in bank branches. The ability to store cash in a secure machine improves on-site security.
  • Enhanced Control of Cash Balances – Having a machine process and reconcile cash drawers helps retailers manage cash on-hand. Recyclers can offer detailed reporting, making accounting easier, and it reduces staff time counting drawers.

Additional branch features include two drive-thru teller lanes, a 24-hour ATM, coin machine, hospitality bar, and high-definition digital signage to ensure that members are aware of important credit union information and announcements.

Education First partnered with NewGround on the $9 million project, a St. Louis-based design-build firm that has specialized in growth solutions for the financial industry for over 100 years.

Keith Brenek, president and CEO, said he is excited about the incredible opportunities that the credit union’s growth presents for current and future members.

According to Brenek, the branch started out inside the Kroger on Phelan and outgrew the 400 square feet it was operating in. The branch then moved to a 2,400 square foot storefront location in the retail center next to Kroger’s and outgrew that as well.

“And here we are in 2017, expanding again,” Brenek said.

Education First FCU is a not-for-profit federal credit union founded in 1952 with a mission of educating the community with personalized financial solutions, and empowering financial success with education. EFFCU has nine locations in Southeast Texas and is insured by NCUA, with assets of over $356 million.

Photo by Brandon Gouthier - President/CEO at Education First Federal Credit Union Keith Brenek and Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames (left) cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the Education First FCU Laurel Avenue branch.