FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (1/12/11)--Although big national banks have begun adding branches and beefing up services to woo Massachusetts' consumers, local credit unions and community banks are already "ahead of the game," said a Fairhaven, Mass., newspaper. "Community banks and credit unions have capitalized on dissatisfaction with national financial giants by adding new branches in the region over the past year," said the SouthCoastToday.com (Jan. 9). The newspaper noted that more than half of major banks plan to add branches or maintain existing ones because the branch is where most account openings take place. They are looking to turn basic checking accounts into more lucrative relationships by focusing more on service, the article said. The newspaper also interviewed local credit unions and community banks about their growth. Southern Mass CU, a $177.3 million asset credit union in Fairhaven, last year added a full-service branch in Bedford, and it plans to open a branch in Fall River in about two years. It also has a branch office at Fairhaven High School during the academic year. "We began our expansion plan development several years ago and selected the New Bedford location long before the recent trend of other financial institutions adding more branches and services," Southern Mass CU President/CEO Daniel Waltz told the publication. "The opening of our first full-service branch office just happened to coincide with this recent trend." He agreed national banks are trying to emulate smaller financial institutions that offer competitive services. "Consumers have recognized this and have been moving their financial account relationships from large, nationwide banks to community credit unions and banks such as Southern Mass CU where they receive personalized service and know we are always looking out for their best interests," Waltz said.