LAS VEGAS (5/7/09)--Bank closures are presenting credit unions with great opportunities in serving former bank customers, according to Carroll Beach, president/chief operating officer of CO-OP Shared Branching. In "Branching after the Bailout," a session at the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations (NACUSO) Annual Conference in Las Vegas this week, Beach shared information and insights to help credit unions better serve their members and take advantage of opportunities in the current market. With today's financial climate, events in the movement and banking industry will impact the future for credit unions, particularly their branching strategies, he said, adding that shared branching can help in tumultuous times. "With all the bank closures and mergers going on right now, credit unions are presented with some great opportunities," he said. "The customers of these banks must go somewhere. Why not your credit union? You can send a powerful message to potential members about the strength of credit unions" and gain new members, he said. However, "some credit unions are responding to the economic crisis by shutting down branches to cut expenses. Experts warn that the key is to make sure operational cuts aren't leading to losses in member service. Closing branches can send a negative message to members. For credit unions, where member retention and service take priority, account accessibility must remain in place," Beach said. "Just because your credit union may have to close a branch, it does not mean you can't be in the neighborhood anymore. When proprietary branches are being shuttered, credit unions can direct members to a nearby shared branch, where they can continue to conduct transactions just as if they were in their home credit union." Nearly 1,300 credit unions offer shared branching in 3,600 locations through CO-OP Shared Branching.