Hawaii State Federal Credit Union: Soft Opening

The 1,800-square-foot space that is Hawaii State Federal Credit Union: Salt Lake, serves as a sort of "test lab" for their new technology. They are the first in Hawaii to have ITMs. Not only that, but their ITMs are the first in the nation to implement palm/vein-based biometric authentication with member specialists behind each ITM to answer questions and guide customers through the ITM experience.

"We're proud to be the first financial institution in Hawaii to introduce this new technology. But more importantly, we're proud to offer the best of both worlds. between the convenience of out new self-service options and offering expert financial consulation provided by our friendly staff-you choose how you want to interact with us. " - Ismael "Ish" Eustaquio


Representatives from Element (Nate and Bryn Baldasaro) flew out to witness the soft opening of the branch.

The day after arrival started at 8:30am in the lobby of HSFCU: Salt Lake. After some fine tuning of the touch tables, Ryan Hirata calls the group over to discuss the digital touch experience.

Meanwhile, graphics are being carefully applied to the windows. Despite there being a few minor hiccups, the atmosphere is joyful. Cherese Maio leads a team of women comprised of Trisha Aguirre, Rose Scott, Arinix Aga, Tori Yamashiro, Lauren Costello, and Haley Quinata. She has been coaching them on the new branch hospitality policies, training them to be the best in the business. Of course, their bubbly personalities, professionalism, and eagerness to learn lends itself perfectly to their job descriptions.

Introduction to touch technology.

The team is then called into a meeting lead by Ryan to talk about the importance of touch, the different features, and the new options that the touch tables provide. There are two on the right side [from the door] of the branch. As Ryan goes through his presentation, Nate interjects with some interesting anecdotes and personal points surrounding the touch process.

As the day progresses, Cherese takes the women through a variety of exercises to prepare them for the branch’s soft opening on Monday. After lunch, they practice their jobs, alternating between customer and employee, a roleplaying exercise that was quite fun!


Pictured: Tori and Micah

After a restful weekend visiting the North Shore and other local landmarks, the highlight of which was swimming at Makapu'u Beach, Monday morning dawned to another early arrival.

Makapu’u Beach Park

Element reps arrived at 7:50am to a branch that was already filled with employees, board members, and local partners of the credit union. To the left of the door, there was a table laden with coffee and customized donuts from DunkinDonuts, fruit, and some chichi dango. A local favorite, it is a sweet similar to mochi, but much softer. The space is clean and sparkling. Those on the staff as well as few other special people, including Nate, were gifted with leis to wear. The ladies, lead by Cherese excelled in their mingling. At 8:30, Andrew Rosen, the CEO of Hawaii State FCU, called for everyone’s attention. He delivered a heartfelt speech and thanked all those involved in the project.

Andrew Rosen: CEO of HSFCU

He was followed by Elliot Hatico who also thanked many. In a humorous speech, he addressed the staff directly about the importance of working together, using the analogy of a canoe team to illustrate his point. When he finished, Micah Yoshimura introduced the staff and their jobs and recognized those involved in the project. Among those recognized throughout the speeches were Ish Eustaquio, Nate Baldasaro and The Element Group, and Duke Gipaya the facilities specialist.

Elliot Hatico

When Micah finished, Elliot stepped up to introduce the Kahuna (Hawaiian priest) Curt Kekuna who did the blessing for the branch when construction first began, as well as many of the blessings for other HSFCU branches. He delivered a quick sermon on his involvement with HSFCU as well as the importance of the federal credit union’s mission to always, “be right by you”. He stressed the importance of connection and caring for each other and through audience engagement, creates that feeling of connection and family within the space.

Curt Kekuna

He ushered everyone outside for the blessing which concluded with a sprinkling of holy water and the untying of the ceremonial lei by Micah and Andrew to officially open the branch. Afterwords, everyone filed back in. Staff went first, followed by the people from corporate. Everyone else entered after them and took the opportunity to shake hands, hug, kiss, and congratulate those on the staff.

Outside for the blessing

With the Salt Lake branch officially open at 9:00am, those involved stood at their stations next to the ITM’s and happily demonstrated the new technology to participants of the blessing, as well as walk-ins intrigued by the hustle and bustle. By the time Element left at 11:15am, several withdrawals had been made and accounts had been set up. They headed over to HSFCU headquarters for 12:00pm to run a mini-seminar on pushing content as well as template opportunities (such as pulling in multiple feeds to one screen) on Element's digital platform. Those that attended the meeting were: Bonnie Sakai, Ryan, Nate Baldasaro, Stacy Fujitani, and Cullen Tegan. After a 5 minute break, Nate took some time to discuss touch opportunities. The meeting concluded at 3:00pm, after which the participants finalized plans for dinner at Tsukuneya Robata Grill. The people from Element joined Ish, Ryan, Cullen, and Aaron Valleley for a delicious dinner before heading out for home the next morning.

Dinner at Tsukuneya Robata

Upon arriving home, Element recieved news from Ish that the branch is thriving, serving as an interest point for many of the other local branches.


Thank you to the team at HSFCU for hosting The Element Group!

To see more about the Salt Lake team, click here.

To see the HSFCU experience gallery, click here.

Written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

A Case Where "Every Bit Matters"

Here at Element, we often refer to the company tagline of "every bit matters." We stress the small things, saying that those things are what may set companies apart.

When representatives from Element flew out ot Hawaii for the opening of HSFCU's Salt Lake branch, they experienced the effect of their own tag line.

12 hours total, the flight to Hawaii State FCU was split into two different parts. The first leg of the journey went through Minneapolis. Upon a late arrival, Element's reps realized that in order to get to the flight headed into Honolulu, they would have to run. The gate of the flight that they were on was far from the next boarding gate and they thought it would be a tight squeeze. To their surprise, there was a gentleman waiting inside the ramp area, looking for the passengers bound for Honolulu. When the people from Element passed, he quickly led them down the stairs that were attached to the gate and onto the tarmac.

He explained that he was part of Delta’s Elite Services and as part of their Surprise and Delight Porche Program, they try to find people that are stretched for time and bring them right to their flight. A quick ride in a Porsche Cayenne brought the reps to the set of stairs connected to their next flight. This small act of kindness relieved a great deal of potential stress and demonstrated that the little “bits” truly matter.


Written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

Hawaii State Federal Credit Union: Salt Lake Location

Waves lap at the sides of a massive ship powering through the currents of the Pacific. Nondescript, the containers stacked on the deck offer the viewer little in the way of their contents. However, one of these containers holds something unique, the pieces of the newly designed branch for Hawaii State Federal Credit Union all in one place, and ready for implementation.

Rendering of HSFCU Salt Lake Branch, Hawaii: Part 1

It was just over a year ago that this project took its first steps in Portsmouth, NH. Six members of Hawaii’s executive team traveled overseas to visit Element headquarters. They spent four days discussing the new strategy, work environment, as well as various ways to improve the member experience.

Out for Lobster in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME.

Strategy Session

In addition to the meetings and discussions, the team at Element took their visitors to Boston to see the sights and tour multiple “branch of the future” locations.

Touring the sites!

Inspiration Source: The Capitol One Cafe

Over the next several months, the team from Hawaii and the team from Element worked their way through concepts, schematic design, and design development documentation. Since then, a variety of specialists have come together to bring this project to fruition. All of the millwork and materials were manufactured in a Phoenix location, then carefully packaged, crated, and shipped to Honolulu.

With minimal room to space, the boxes containing the branch were ready for departure.

Meanwhile, a “vanilla box” was created on location. This meant prepping the outside of the branch as well as creating a clean slate on the inside. Just prior to shipping, the teams reconvened in Phoenix, Arizona to review the millwork and catch up on the digital touch experience. Then, the branch was shipped to location in one large 40’ container, separated by type in wooden units. This included the millwork, the ceiling tiles, flooring, lights, doors, digital, computers, and hardware.

Inspecting the millwork

Ultimately, this type of shipment allowed for a faster delivery, as all the moving parts are delivered together, a faster installation, and an immediate start to construction. It is a more sustainable, organized, and efficient option to the normal (and slow) process normally reserved in putting together a new branch.

Lunch in Phoenix

Hawaii State Federal Credit Union is the first credit union to make use of this unique service. Shipped out of Phoenix on May 6th, the transporters sent a complete photo gallery detailing the process and ensuring that instructions were followed to a T.

Renderings of HSFCU Salt Lake Branch, Hawaii: Part 2

What ended up being 28 packages and 24,125 pounds of weight, arrived safely in Honolulu approximately two months ago. The implementation team has been busy constructing the branch in preparation for the soft opening on July 29th, 2019.

To see more photos detailing the process, check out this gallery.

To see the finished product, head on over to Instagram where there will be photos of the completed branch, as well as of the opening itself!


Written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

Avidia Bank: Leominster Renovation

Avidia Bank: the striking result of a merge between Hudson Savings Bank and Westborough Bank, chose to renovate their Leominster Branch in an unconventional way. They closed the main portion of the branch over the course of eight days in order to get the branch as fully functional as possible in the least amount of time. CarrieAnne Cormier of Avidia Bank graciously spoke with me over the phone to share some insight into the project. 

 Avidia has recently built two other branches that had a more modern look and feel. In order to keep with brand standards and maintain consistency, CarrieAnne felt that it was time to bring Leominster up to snuff. While well maintained, the last time it was updated was in 2005, the year it opened. It was time for a change. For this space, they wanted a more modernized look, one that would attract and engage a younger demographic. Ultimately, this would target new customer segments and ideally build more market share in an area saturated with banks and credit unions. 

Makeover: Day 1

Makeover: Day 8

They chose to fast track this particular project due to the smaller square footage. Spatially, sectioning off parts of the branch while keeping the doors open was not a viable option. However, shutting down the branch for eight days was some cause for concern. To remedy this issue, Avidia decided to keep the drive-up open all week, providing service to customers throughout the entire renovation. This different approach to branch transformation presented its own challenges and stresses, but in the end the hard work paid off. CarrieAnne went on to say that this process was something that she deemed well worth repeating for another smaller branch. However, in terms of a larger one, she would opt for a more traditional approach. 

She made a point of mentioning the dedication of project managers Nate Henry (Element) and Mikala Geurtsen (Avidia) who were in close communication throughout the entirety of the project. Having project managers on both sides of the project allowed for smooth execution and easy troubleshooting. Based on the time crunch, there was little room for error and people were working round the clock to get this project done. There was a little hitch with a carpet being backordered, but that was quickly rectified by Element’s Alina Pawlowski who found a suitable replacement in record time.

 The branch is open now, and the reactions of the customers were priceless. CarrieAnne shared her favorite reaction which occurred only after 2 days after reopening. A customer came in and said, “Wow this doesn't even look like a bank, it’s beautiful!” 

She was very complimentary of the team at Element, saying that they were fun to work with and that they challenged Avidia to think creatively and experiment with different things. She then went on to say that Element does a great job of figuring out and then producing this “branch of the future,” a concept that extends beyond a sleek design and into an effective and smooth workflow.

A big thank you to CarrieAnne for jumping on the phone to answer some of my questions! You can find her on Instagram @banksmartcarrie and Twitter at @BankSmartCARRIE


Written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.
Edited by CarrieAnne Cormier .