Colorado Springs-based Ent Credit Union plans rapid NoCo expansion

Colorado Springs-based Ent Credit Union currently has just a single branch to serve customers in Northern Colorado, but by next year that branch total could surpass a half-dozen.

The credit union, starting this summer with the new Fort Collins branch, is planning to open operations at the following locations in the next year:

  • 4300 S. College Ave., Fort Collins
  • 243 N. College Ave., Fort Collins
  • 4521 Weitzel Street, Timnath
  • 103 E. 71st St., Loveland
  • Yet to be determined location near the intersection of U.S. Highway 34 and Boise Avenue in Loveland.
  • Yet to be determined location near Main Street in Windsor.

Those new branches, which Ent calls “service centers,” are in addition to the existing Northern Colorado Ent Credit Union outpost in Firestone.

Ent boasts nearly 400,000 members. Most of those members are in the Colorado Springs area, but chief marketing officer Jennifer Sussman said Ent has several thousand who currently live in Larimer County. 

It’s those existing members in Northern Colorado, many of whom moved north from the El Paso County area, who have demanded new branches closer to home, bank officials said.

“Those people are going to share the love” and hopefully drive new membership in Northern Colorado, Sussman said. 

Ent chief experience officer Rich Scholes said the firm has spent the past few years building up to this moment. 

Expansion and growth require institutional commitment, he said. “You just can’t be halfway regional.”

Scholes credited Northern Colorado’s banking workforce with helping to make Ent’s expansion in the region possible.

“We’re really impressed with the employees we’ve been able to find to staff the services centers,” he said. 

Consumers’ rapid adoption of mobile banking applications hasn’t soured Ent on the physical bank branch. 

While per capita in-bank transactions are trending downward by about 3% annually, Scholes said, Ent’s annual membership growth rate is about 10%

“In our case, the per capita usage might be a bit lower, but the total usage is much bigger,” Scholes said, validating Ent’s branch expansion strategy. 

“The research we’ve conducted tells us that the branch still matters,” Sussman said. 

Even those who bank online want to know that a nearby branch exists should they ever need to use it, she said. “That market presence matters.”

The new Northern Colorado branches will all be equipped with Ent’s interactive teller machine technology, which allows users to connect via video chat with an Ent employee in a Colorado-based call center who can assist with transactions. 

The COVID-19 outbreak hasn’t had a huge impact on Ent’s ability to scout new sites and build new branches, Scholes said.

Because so many other businesses with brick-and-mortar operations have pulled back during the pandemic, Ent, “as a potential tenant or buyer, [is] actually getting call backs [from real estate agents] faster and getting projects moved through [the municipal building permitting process] more quickly,” he said. 

Ent’s real estate strategy prioritizes buying the properties where new branches will be built rather than leasing space from a landlord.

“Leasing is acceptable, but we’d much prefer to own,” Scholes said. “We’re in this for the next 40 years, so the math works better” when the credit union owns its buildings outright. 

“Capital isn’t a challenge,” he said. “We’ve been saving for 60 years and we’ve got a lot of excess capital.”

Part of that capital is being deployed in Colorado Springs, where Ent is building a new 300,000-square-foot headquarters near InterQuest Parkway and Interstate 25.

“It’s going to be a really welcome change from being totally out of space” at the current headquarters, Scholes said.

Ent plans to occupy the new offices by June 2021. 

Colorado Springs-based Ent Credit Union currently has just a single branch to serve customers in Northern Colorado, but by next year that branch total could surpass a half-dozen.

The credit union, starting this summer with the new Fort Collins branch, is planning to open operations at the following locations in the next year:

  • 4300 S. College Ave., Fort Collins
  • 243 N. College Ave., Fort Collins
  • 4521 Weitzel Street, Timnath
  • 103 E. 71st St., Loveland
  • Yet to be determined location near the intersection of U.S. Highway 34 and Boise Avenue in Loveland.
  • Yet to be determined location near Main Street in Windsor.

Those new branches, which Ent calls “service centers,” are in addition to the existing Northern Colorado Ent Credit Union outpost in Firestone.

Ent boasts nearly 400,000 members. Most of those members are in the Colorado Springs area, but chief marketing officer Jennifer Sussman said Ent has several thousand who currently live in Larimer County. 

It’s those existing members in Northern Colorado, many of whom moved north from the El Paso County area, who have demanded new branches closer to home, bank officials said.

“Those people are going to share the love” and hopefully drive new membership in Northern Colorado, Sussman said. 

Ent chief experience officer Rich Scholes said the firm has spent the past few years building up to this moment. 

Expansion and growth require institutional commitment, he said. “You just can’t be halfway regional.”

Scholes credited Northern Colorado’s…