UMASS Five College Credit Union maintains locations for students and employees of the University of Massachusetts college system through Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College. Membership may also be obtained through certain occupations or associations as well. Established in 1967 as a one branch office by faculty members, the bank has grown to include four physical locations, a full service call center, and online capabilities.

The Northampton credit union, home to Hampshire College, was a great pit stop for making deposits and withdrawals during the often hectic days of college life, but since it was really just a 100 sq. ft. walk up counter at the student union there was no opportunity to offer additional financial services without traveling to another location. With a majority of their members being students, this was a challenge for cash strapped undergraduates, many of whom don’t own cars for easy transit. Taking into consideration the opportunity to offer more services not just to the students, but faculty members as well, board advisors were budgeting for more space and patiently waiting for the right location to make it available.  When the occasion presented itself to renovate 1,000 sq. ft. within the student union, the credit union jumped at the chance to expand their services.

The timing was ideal, yet the challenge soon became how to design a multifunctional space which appealed to college youth and faculty members of varying generations and financial requirements. In need of a teller line, and areas to perform loan counseling and sign-ups, management needed an all-in-one designer, architect, project manager, and marketer. They were running up against a deadline, and wanted to work with a provider who was close to home, could be onsite to manage the project, and have owner involvement.


Element was referred to the credit union as a regional provider with the ability to provide integrated retail banking services. Owners visited the campus and immediately saw a chance to transform the former sushi bar, into a workable banking environment with generational appeal. In just six weeks, Element's team was able to produce a plan which included pod style banking with two stations, in place of the traditional teller line, which would not only maximize space but provide a modern style. Next on tap was how to handle privacy and formality. The answer was in a modular office setting which included moveable millwork, and demountable furniture and walls. If the credit union ever decided to change space in the future, they could bring their investment with them, since every surface was easily moveable. “All we need to do is unhook the walls and take them with us,” said CEO Kathy Hutchinson (retired).

The credit union didn’t stop at renovations. They also incorporated the signature environmental graphic package which included wall paper, wall signs, and digital signage as well. Through the redesign, members would now be able to realize a more personal banking experience and notice there was much more to offer beyond the basic student checking account.

We are so pleased we were able to work with the close knit team at Element. We were always under the impression you had to go with the big providers for these types of renovations where you never even get to meet the people who are overseeing such a large undertaking. For us, the branch overhaul was a big undertaking and required decisive planning. Element respected our goals and ensured we stayed true to our budget and were always providing us with savvy marketing strategies.
— John Reske, Director of Marketing

Once the new credit union branch was operational, students, faculty and other clients have truly appreciated the new space. As part of their new services, the branch was offering students special loan programs including one which included low interest rates to encourage bike purchases. “The purpose was to show our students how to build credit, without resorting to credit cards which can be problematic at this point in their life,” said Director of Marketing, John Reske. With newfound marketing material now available, the branch is also able to rotate their brand message with special offerings or promotional items they feel will benefit its members.