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The Best of Both Worlds: Vantage West Expands Into Phoenix

2019 rings in a new era for Vantage West as we prepare to open two new locations in the Phoenix Metro Area. The first Gilbert (Cooper Square) location at Ray and Cooper is slated for a late 2018/early 2019 opening, with a second location in Mesa at McKellips and Stapley following shortly thereafter.

This move kick starts Vantage West’s 10 x ’22 Expansion Strategy, which will add ten locations to the recently added 71 new ATMs throughout the Phoenix area, with two locations added per year. Despite serving the area for 32 years and with Phoenicians making up a third of the credit union’s Membership, the Phoenix area has been significantly underserved with retail locations—a problem the expansion seeks to solve.

It also represents a new path for Vantage West.

While “experts” for years have heralded the death of retail banking, as more consumers turn to digital banking, Vantage West is seeking instead to revolutionize and reinvent it. Richard Paige, Director of Market and Product Development, says that the new locations “represent an evolution in the utility of retail banking locations.”

The Future of Banking

The new Gilbert, Cooper Square location will be the first Vantage West retail location to embrace a model commonly referred to as dialogue banking.

Rather than meeting a teller on the opposite side of a glass window, Members will be greeted by Relationship Bankers trained to provide any service needed by Members in a convenient, engaging environment.

The concept of dialogue banking has been embraced by innovative financial institutions across the country, such as Portland Oregon’s Umpqua Bank and Navy Federal Credit Union. To bring Vantage West’s own banking transformation to life, Vantage West has partnered with DBSI, a banking design-build firm named Most Innovative, Most Admired, and Fastest Growing for its work in the financial space. Chandler, Arizona-based DBSI and Vantage West’s partnership has already proven to be an incredibly valuable collaboration for both companies.  The partnership with DBSI enables Vantage West to address the specific needs of its Membership by applying proven, leading technological solutions.  Paige says the dialogue banking model allows for a flexible, convenient, and interactive experience while retaining the personal and individual attentiveness our Members enjoy.

Paige compares the concept to using a convenience store approach, rather than the typical retail experience. Think Apple Store, as opposed to Walmart.

And if you think this is a step toward automation with the elimination of human jobs, Paige is quick to clarify that dialogue banking is transactional, personal, and interactive. This allows Members to get in and get out, while providing personal and dedicated interaction for more specific banking needs.

This step toward dialogue banking comes at a time when retailers and financial institutions are moving in the direction of automation. This includes Amazon opening its first fully automated grocery store, which foregoes human cashiers in lieu of sensors and cameras. Vantage West’s decision to deploy Relationship Bankers in an interactive environment begs the question: Why not make the entire experience self-serve?

Technology Meets Human Interaction

Paige counters that Members don’t actually want self-service—at least not completely.

“Banks and credit unions, including Vantage West, already offer self-service banking through digital banking channels,” he says. “If Members want to self-serve, they don’t have to come in to make deposits, withdrawals or transfers, apply for a loan or credit card or even become a Member. When they make the choice to visit a retail location, they are looking for great service that is convenient, not self-service.”

This combination of technological and human solutions undergirds Vantage West’s commitment to combining cutting-edge technology with the personal customer care that credit unions have become known for.

While data analytics can tell us a lot about human behavior and trends, there’s still no substitute for direct engagement. Just as the new retail locations mix modern technology with face-to-face communication, Vantage West’s approach to Member research marries the old with the new.

Members were asked about their banking needs in preparation for the Phoenix rollout, and Paige says the research consistently found that more important than features, benefits, and low fees; Members first expect convenience, ease of access, and accuracy.

With the human-centered design of its new locations, Vantage West aims to provide this ease of access and convenience. Being agile and lean allows credit unions to keep fees low and provide the features and benefits that Members desire. In terms of banking, it is the best of both worlds.

Learning and Growing

Paige stressed that the Phoenix plan is a culmination of the best insights gained from research into Member preferences and comes after learning some “hard lessons about interaction and convenience.”

The plan is not exclusive to Phoenix. Vantage West plans to bring the strategy back to Pima County, expanding, refining, and improving its network of retail locations informed by the experiences in Phoenix.

“Taking a deliberate and agile approach allows us to improve upon and learn from the experience to see where we can enhance the process, and improve the Member experience,” he says. Intentionally and continually fine-tuning the dialogue banking model will help Vantage West find the perfect mix of convenience, ease of access, and engagement that ultimately leads to success.

“Success is not about replicating what other people do,” Paige says, “but about applying the right solution to the right opportunity and executing at a high level.”

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