Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union
Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union, Hawaii’s third largest credit union, wanted to expand to Las Vegas to reach this large Hawaiian-native market. The economic downturn in 2008 allowed Aloha Pacific FCU the opportunity to acquire a credit union branch in this desired region.
According to Thomas Santos, Aloha Pacific FCU’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, the timing was perfect. “Property values had gone down a lot, and we felt the Las Vegas real estate market was at the bottom of its cycle,” said Santos. “We thought it was the right time for us to enter the market, do some mortgage lending, and start to build a mortgage portfolio.”
The initial branch location allowed the Credit Union to build a mortgage portfolio, but unfortunately, it was not in the right location to build membership. The branch did not experience high traffic flow, was far from most of the city’s Hawaiian population, and was in an area still experiencing the effects of the economic downturn. Realizing they had to relocate their branch, Aloha Pacific FCU turned to NewGround for help.
Founded in 1936, formerly named Honolulu City & County Employees Federal Credit Union, the credit union wanted to satisfy the banking needs of Honolulu’s workforce. Membership quickly grew to include more than 2,000 select employee groups, as well as its core worker constituency. Aloha Pacific FCU, as the credit union is known today, has since developed a forward-looking philosophy by incorporating technology as part of their dedication to its members, including mobile, text and telephone banking, and online account services.
Opening a branch in Las Vegas made perfect sense, as it is considered “the favorite playground and home away from home of so many Hawaii residents,” according to the credit union’s About Us web page. Planning for their new branch, Aloha Pacific FCU wanted to incorporate the same forward-looking service details and provide a rich experience for Hawaiians residing there.
Santos said they decided to locate the new branch in Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb where many Hawaiian natives had settled. “We thought that would help us start to build a more loyal following in Las Vegas: the former Hawaii residents may already know who we are, and even if they didn’t, they would be more likely to utilize us because of the strong Hawaii connection. This would give us a better opportunity for sustained growth over a longer period of time,” said Santos.
After looking at different sites in Henderson, they found a location that seemed appropriate, so they engaged NewGround’s Strategy team to verify their decision with demographic data. NewGround confirmed that the location was near the heart of Henderson’s Hawaiian community, that there was a sufficient range of household income within a three-mile radius of the location, and the branch stood in an area with strong traffic flow.
The new location was based in an existing strip mall in a very busy, vibrant area of Henderson and was anchored by successful tenants, such as Carl’s Jr., Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Garibaldi’s Pizza. “It was a good place for us because it’s located right on Eastern Avenue, one of the most frequently traveled streets in Las Vegas, the tenants in the mall would attract a lot of traffic, and the high visibility from Eastern Avenue would make it easy for people to find us,” said Santos. “It wasn’t a strip mall where you were going to see high vacancy and turnover.”
Aloha Pacific FCU wanted to incorporate several design elements to engage their core Hawaiian target market, as well as incorporate a cutting-edge technology infrastructure that related to their Oahu locations.
To engage their target market, Aloha Pacific FCU decided to incorporate a Hawaiian look and feel without the stereotypical design elements of Hawaiian-themed establishments. Santos said they wanted the location to give the impression that members were back home in the islands as soon as they walked in the door.
“I went back a month after the grand opening and stayed for a week. During that time, a few members that had just moved to Las Vegas stopped by to visit the branch, and the first thing they said upon entering was, ‘You know what, it feels like I’m back home in Hawaii,’” Santos said.
To develop the Hawaiian theme, NewGround’s sister company, Adrenaline, spent two and a half months working on the design and 3D renderings. They first developed a color palette that reflected the island’s colors. Then, they developed graphics that emphasized an island look and feel. “There’s a wave graphic on the wall that also carries over into the glass windows in the branch,” Santos said.
NewGround also wanted to leverage technology to handle more transactions without increasing employee headcount. They implemented two key technology and design elements: virtual tellers and teller pods.
The virtual teller is a kiosk similar to an ATM, but displays two-way video so that members can communicate with a teller at the headquarters in Honolulu while withdrawing cash, making a deposit, or cashing a check. The virtual teller is located in a vestibule that can be separated from the rest of the bank during off-business hours and easily accessed by members using their debit cards.
Incorporating the Universal Banker concept—with emphasis on interpersonal transactions—the teller pod eliminates the traditional teller line by lowering the counter height and providing an island that allows the teller to move from behind the counter to greet members. This is a key feature that gives both employees and members the freedom to greet each other in a typical Hawaiian fashion—with a hug.
Finally, NewGround decided to incorporate a small tech bar that features two iPads and allows members to access the internet, learn how to use mobile banking, or download the mobile app.
The new location in the existing strip mall was an empty shell that required demolition. As a single-source partner, NewGround managed the entire construction process from start to finish, created the construction documents, obtained the construction permits, and acted as the general contractor.
“They went and got all the bids for all of the subcontractors, helped us out with that whole process, and worked with us on which bids to accept and which subcontractors to use,” said Santos.
Construction lasted a little more than three months, breaking ground in December 2015, and celebrating their grand opening in April 2016.
Loans Up, Deposits Up
Since opening the new branch, Aloha Pacific FCU has experienced positive results, such as an increase in traffic, membership, and loans.
“We were opening around 10 to 15 to accounts per month in our former location. Since opening our doors in April, we’re opening about 40 accounts per month, and our signature loans are up about 300 percent,” said Santos. He also claimed they have doubled their deposits.
So what are the plans for Aloha Pacific FCU for the near future? “We have aspirations to continue to grow and add a second branch in Las Vegas in the future,” Santos said. For now, they will continue to strive for their full potential at their current location.