The 411 on Universal Associates and Their Role in the Retail Branch Environment

Ready to fast-forward your bank or credit union branches with Universal Associates?

The digital age is here, and if there’s anything two years of navigating a pandemic has taught us, it’s that all of us are truly amazing at redefining the world of work and being flexible with the spaces we manage our tasks in (never mind those first Zoom calls). And with online and mobile banking services already trending in recent years, it’s no surprise that Covid-19 shutdowns and resulting remote work scenarios served as catalysts for even faster adoption. And things don’t look to shift into reverse. According to a January 2022 report by Statista—the number of digital banking customers in the U.S. is expected to reach up to 217 million by 2025, and Forbes has reported that 78% of Americans prefer to bank from computers or mobile devices.

So what does this brave, new world of digital transformation mean for banks and credit unions like yours?

It means looking at your technology, your locations, and your staffing to discover where you’re being effective, and where you might be under-serving. It means looking at your ROI and deciding whether it’s time to move from a traditional branch model to an advisory-focused one. It means looking at the Universal Associate (UA) model and exploring how this structure can help you stay profitable, retain quality employees, and increase customer satisfaction across your branch network.

What is the Universal Associate (UA) model, exactly?

Think of the UA model as the hub of your financial institution’s operations. From it, the technological and physical interfaces of your branch locations are set into motion. Altogether, these parts work together to streamline your workforce and enrich your member experience.

The UA model begins with redesigning your frontline staffing. You are essentially combining the roles of multiple employees—tellers, customer service representatives, and personal bankers—into a hybrid position. Also known as Universal Tellers, Universal Bankers, and Universal Representatives, these multifaceted employees are the face of your operations and the shining stars of your team!

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Universal Associates complete a wide variety of transactions, and can:

  • Cross-sell all products.
  • Open different types of client and business accounts.
  • Handle the sale of complex products and services.
  • Provide superior customer and member services.
  • Conduct needs-based selling, thinking in terms of solving a prospect’s problems.
  • Initiate branch marketing efforts (i.e., branch events).
  •  Support community programs.
  • Easily transition between tasks and responsibilities.
  • Perform any role within the branch including opening accounts, processing loans, making teller transactions, etc.

How can I train employees to grow successfully in Universal Associate (UA) roles?

What’s great about the UA model is that you can give your existing employees more opportunities to advance in their careers. UAs perform a lot more duties than traditional tellers and customer service representatives, so you can compensate them with higher wages and benefits. At the same time, you can seek out new employees with skill sets that will ensure a good transition into your workspaces.

And we at CFM get it: Putting together an employee training program is a lot of work. That’s why we created a guide to help you find a rockstar UA.

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What technologies should my branch locations look at in order to implement a Universal Associate (UA) model?

One thing that makes the UA model so popular and successful is the flexibility it brings to staff and member transactions. CFM has the technology integrations you need to maximize these experiences, and here are a few tools that can help you:

Remote Transaction Assist (RTA)

With RTA, your associates can use pin pad and queuing technology to operate cash dispensers and recyclers from anywhere in your bank or credit union. Members get served from start to finish, without your associate having to refer them to another staff member or make them wait in line for another transaction. Named Fintech Product of the Year in 2017, RTA is an integrative technology tool with outstanding ROI!

Learn more about RTA here.

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Nomadix

This core-integrated, tablet-based application is another useful technology tool option you can implement with your UA model. A step-up from RTA technology, Nomadix allows employees to perform duties from anywhere within a branch location; things like cash transactions, account management, and advisory discussions.

Click here to see how Nomadix works.

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Do I need to redesign my retail branches to fit the Universal Associate (UA) model? And isn’t it expensive?

Adopting a UA model involves surveying the physical elements and service flows of your branches and then deciding if they have the following:

  •  Accessible teller lines or towers.
  • Inviting public spaces for discovering products and services.
  • Open-concept consultation areas that allow some privacy.
  •  Flexible offices for more complex transactions, usable by all staff.

And this is where Transformation Fusion comes in. Transformation Fusion is a packaged solution that helps you connect all the elements of the UA model together—including staffing, design, and technology. Through our partnership with DBSI, we can provide you with an entire suite of services to help transform your branches into the next generation of financial service platforms!

If you’re concerned about cost, we get it! But believe it or not … the cost of building a brand-new branch location will cost you much more than redesigning your existing branches to facilitate the UA model. While the cost of constructing a new building can range from $1 to 4 million, it’s possible to update a single branch location for under $300,000 by refreshing the interior plus adding teller towers, digital signage, and interactive kiosks. See our Transformation Fusion page for more details.

Are you ready to fast-forward your bank or credit union with a Universal Associate (UA) model? From staffing discovery and ROI calculations to the newest tablet technology that turns your staff into mobile superstars, we know you can’t wait to see what CFM can do for you!