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Branching Out

UMe Federal Credit Union 3000 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank Facility: Single headquarters office with 25 employees serving 12,600 members Architect: Gensler, Los Angeles Completed: 2010 The transformation of UMe’s single office coincided with a rebranding of the financial institution that was known since its 1940 founding as Burbank Community Federal Credit Union. UMe worked with the Los Angeles office of noted San Francisco architecture firm Gensler on taking a drab, two-story peach-colored building entered through security doors and creating a community space that combined quirkiness with the feel of an upscale hotel lobby. A receptionist greets customers, pointing out the coffee bar and a jar of chocolate candy. A children’s play area is set beneath a skylight, with blocks for toddlers and iPads for the older kids. “The parents love it because it’s in a central area where they can see their kids,” said Anita Hutchinson, vice president of marketing. UMe also shows off its pet-friendly attitude by having a jar of dog biscuits next to the chocolate, as well as a wall near the teller area decorated with photos of customers with their animals – be it dog, cat, or in one case, a pig. Everything is accented by a vibrant orange, purple and yellow color scheme, chosen because they were not typical of credit unions. The idea is to emphasize openness yet still provide privacy for taking care of personal financial transactions. “We looked at blue. We looked at green. We wanted to do something off the beaten path,” Hutchinson said. In early August, the credit union hosted a networking mixer for other credit union executives. This was the first look many of those executives had inside the brightly colored building with the warm color scheme and large, well-lit waiting and teller areas. “I had one tell me this was the best building he’d ever seen,” said UMe Chief Executive Robert Einstein. Added Hutchinson: “I wanted to high five him right there.” – Mark R. Madler Community Bank 2800 N. Hollywood Way Facility: One of 16 Southern California branches Architect: In-house facilities department Completed: August 2013 Community Bank has put the finishing touches on the remodel of its Burbank branch to give it an updated and modern look – and an atmosphere for the business clients who visit. In addition to new carpeting and paint, the office now boasts a redesigned conference room, additional offices for underwriters and private offices for relationship managers. Before the remodel the managers had been in open cubicles that did not afford much privacy, said Chuck Rosen, chief operating officer at Community Bank. “It is more professional and aesthetically pleasing for the customers and employees,” he said. Community Bank, based in Pasadena and with offices from Los Angeles south to Redlands, has been remodeling or relocating its older offices over the past two years. Burbank is the last of those to be completed. Some are free-standing buildings, such as in Burbank, which is near Burbank Bob Hope Airport. But for those locations doing much more business-to-business transactions they are in office building lobbies or on the upper floors. Even as a business bank, Community has not ignored the new technologies revolutionizing retail banking. The institution already offers online banking and mobile check capture and is looking into adding automated tellers – machines with a video screen in which a customer can interact with a teller remotely if the need arises. “That is not for every market and not for every client,” Rosen said. The Burbank office may trail some others in adopting new technologies as it is very much a business branch and the bankers spend their time in the field visiting clients, he added. Rosen is approaching 45 years in the banking industry having started as a teller himself while in college in 1969 and worked in Community’s Burbank branch. He’s seen the evolution of branch design from that of a conservative institution projecting the image that one’s deposits were secure to that of a contemporary look and feel in relation with today’s lifestyles. Staying relevant was among the reasons why the bank remodeled its Burbank offices. “There is not anything special but we have to respond to our growth in that office and make sure it was pleasing for the clients and employees,” he said. – Mark R. Madler JP Morgan Chase & Co. 1014 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village Facility: Local branch office. Architect: Gensler Completed: 2013 Step into the new Chase Bank branch in Westlake Village and you are presented with a rather un-bank-like setting. Sure, there are tellers, but what about that waiting area with the four large, comfortable chairs set beneath a deluxe interior? Nearby is a drink bar with coffee and iced tea and lemonade. And what about those large-screen ATMs – the next generation of automated banking kiosks. In addition to the standard deposits and withdrawals, these machines dispense cash in multiple denominations – not just twenties – and can pay bills as well, in 11 languages. These kiosks do not use a numeric keypad familiar to ATM users but are controlled by touchscreens much like an iPad. “That technology we have patented, so it is ours,” said Marcia Lansdon, a market manager with Chase for part of the San Fernando Valley. The Westlake Village branch is located in a building that had once been a Blockbuster Video store. It’s among four that have opened this year, with another three expected by year’s end. Since 2008, when Chase acquired troubled savings and loan Washington Mutual, the New York institution has been on a growth path throughout Southern California and has about 50 branches in the Valley area. Chase has introduced new services not offered by Washington Mutual, such as personal banking in which clients work with a dedicated team on their financial needs – and the branch design reflects those ambitions. Chase has completed different levels of renovations for the private banking customers, Lansdon said. At the branch on Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Woodland Hills, for instance, there was a complete remodel of the downstairs. “The client can meet with the (banking) team there or we can take them upstairs into private offices,” Lansdon said. Also new to the California market is the ability for bank staffers to immediately issue new debit cards to customers who had lost or had one stolen instead of waiting for a replacement. Chase took these steps in an era that has transformed who walks into a bank branch. Gone is the day when customers deposited or cashed their paychecks by hand every Friday. Now, customers have more complex transactions that cannot be done through a machine. “Affluent customers like that hands-on approach we give and the value through the advisors they see face-to-face,” Lansdon said. – Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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