CU Water Cooler

Looks Matter

Shari StormComment

Whenever I travel with my three daughters, I always insist they dress a certain way—matching and cute. And when I say cute, I mean Gymboree cute, not Justice cute.


My oldest, who is 9, has started to fight me on this. I tell her, “Things will go more smoothly if you are cute.” On days that I travel, I dress my children deliberately. I dress them in a way that signifies young, cute, and in need of assistance. 

When I get to the airport with my two blonds and a redhead and they are in darling mode, people compliment us, they let us cut in line, they give us the pillow if there is only one, they hold my stuff if I have to tie a shoe. I’ve even had a man give my youngest his iPad all flight.

I’m not saying that getting preferential treatment based on looks is logical or right, but I’ve found it to be true time and time again.

So credit unions, what do you look like? Is your branch frumpy? Are your marketing materials messy? Or do you have a deliberate way of presenting yourself? Is your appearance consistent with your values?    

I have visited a lot of branches, both of banks and credit unions and it amazes me how dumpy some financial institutions let themselves become. Below is an anonymous photo of a Seattle area bank I pulled off the Internet.


This photo is perfect because it has many of the worst culprits:

  • Flimsy, misshaped displays
  • Cluttered desks
  • Staff that seem inaccessible because of where they are located
  • Outdated décor
  • A low-grade sense of chaos

Here are three things you can do this year to keep your branches looking polished.

1. Keep your branches clean!

Probably the tidiest branches I’ve ever visited belong to Xceed Financial Credit Union. They manage to keep their branches free of unnecessarily literature and paper. Their branches look so orderly and inviting. 


2. Ask your tellers to dress professionally


I love the idea of frontline staff wearing corporate wear. Even in jeans tellers look buttoned-up. By giving them a short list of selections, you can have a uniformed appearance without making anyone wear actual uniforms. Here is a sample from one of the sharpest looking credit unions I know—Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union.

3. Start integrating technology

There is something about a touch screen or even flat screen that makes a branch look modern and competent. Unitus does an amazing job of technology placement in their branches.


I was talking to a young man who just started working at our credit union. He worked for several years at a Seattle coffee shop called Starbucks. We were chatting about the subconscious effect of walking into a crisp, sharp, pleasing space versus walking into a tired, run-down, shabby place. “When you walk through the door, you feel like a baller,” he said to me about good retail spaces. I’m not sure I feel like a baller (I’m not even sure I know exactly what that means) but I do feel confident and prosperous in places like Xceed, SMCU and Unitus—two feelings that are important for many of our members when they decide whether they want to trust us with their money.


Shari Storm has been an executive at Verity Credit Union since 1998. She has given a TEDx Talk, worked on Filene’s i3 team, been interviewed in the Costco Connection, published a book, earned an MBA, had three daughters and lead a group of business people to teach free enterprise in Minsk. She is married to a man who helps make movies and lives in Edmonds, WA. In her spare time, she likes to watch Zoey 101 reruns with her daughters.