As it rounds out its Larimer County footprint with a new service center in Loveland, Colorado Springs-based Ent Credit Union is turning its attention to the home of its first Northern Colorado branch: Weld County.
Ent has operated a branch at 11211 E. I-25 Frontage Road in Firestone since 2008, long before it began its more-recent expansion into Larimer County, with new branches in Fort Collins, Loveland and Timnath.
Now, as that Larimer County footprint rounds out, Ent will turn its attention to Weld County once again, particularly the Greeley market, said Rich Scholes, Ent’s chief experience officer.
“We’ve got Fort Collins happily well-served with the branches up there,” Scholes said. “I’ve got Greeley coming in the next probably 18 months. We’re really working hard to ensure that we’ve got a high-quality market entry there.”
Ent already has a solid Weld County base on which to build. Thanks in part to the Firestone service center, the credit union has almost 9,000 members in Weld County, with Larimer County having grown to more than 8,000 members, Scholes said. The credit union has about 450,000 members overall.
The Firestone service center resulted from a merger with U.S. Alliance Credit Union in 2008, but for years it was a lonely, northern outpost for Ent, which was founded in 1957 to serve Ent Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
“It was part of a passive asset,” Scholes said of the Firestone location.
He said that although the service center posted “great transaction volume” and served its members well, it lacked brand recognition, with passersby asking, “What’s an Ent?”
That was because it was the only Ent branch north of the Denver area.
“Now, it’s nicely stitched together,” he said. “You go south to Grant Street down in Thornton. You go to the side to Brighton, you go north, as you get further and further north all the way up to Timnath, it’s really increasingly part of this service-center network.”
Ent’s Northern Colorado expansion thus far includes:
- 1107 W. Drake Road, Fort Collins.
- 4300 S. College Ave., Fort Collins.
- 243 N. College Ave., Fort Collins.
- 4521 Weitzel St., Timnath.
- 103 E. 71st St., Loveland.
- 2018 Prairie Center Parkway, Brighton.
An additional Loveland branch is planned at 1727 Topaz Drive..
Ent also operates a service center at 14696 Delaware St. in Westminster. It opened a branch at 4800 W. 121st Ave. in Broomfield in 2021, with plans for an additional Broomfield location at East Baseline Road and County Road 7.
But Weld County will garner much of the credit union’s attention over the next year and a half, including a new service center at 1281 Main St. in Windsor, eventual expansion to Erie and two to three locations in Greeley.
“We feel that there’s a ton of potential in Weld County,” Scholes said. “We sort of feel like it’s been a bit underserved, in part because it’s a harder geographic area to figure out where are the locations. But I think we’ve turned the corner on that, and increasingly, you’ll see, in the next 16 to 18 months, some real traction on the Weld side as well.”
Ent has not yet disclosed the locations for its Greeley service centers, but documents filed with the city of Greeley point to a location at 4725 25th St., part of a building that also houses Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers.
Additionally, Ent in July 2021 met with city officials in a pre-application meeting to discuss a potential location near Weld County Garage at 2699 47th Ave. City officials expressed concern about the location due to traffic, parking and drainage issues, and its status is unclear.
But Greeley locations are expected to do well, based on membership growth in Northern Colorado overall, which Jennifer Sussman, chief marketing officer for Ent, said has been strong.
“We’re also seeing membership growth multiply in those areas, too,” she said, “which suggests there’s an interest and an audience that wants the kind of service we can bring, which is super exciting. We had a contingent of members that were already up in Northern territories, but we’re now seeing that number grow pretty substantially, like three- to fourfold just in the past couple of years.”
Scholes said net promoter scores — a metric to gauge customer experience for a particular brand — have been as high or higher for Northern Colorado than for the credit union’s historic markets.
He attributed that to several factors, including the credit union’s ability to hire quality people in Northern Colorado.
“I’m really, really grateful for the employer-choice investments that we’ve made for a long time and including currently, and how well that’s paying out for employee engagement, even up until today,” he said.
Much of Ent’s Northern Colorado expansion occurred during the COVID-19 era, which caused some delays in opening of service centers due to supply-chain issues, labor shortages and delays in the approval process for the new locations.
Opening of some locations was delayed by a couple of months because staff positions could not be completely filled, or training of staff could not immediately be completed.
Another issue was delay in acquiring technology, including computer servers, with delays of up to nine months for some equipment.
“That’s longer than the service center would usually take to be completed,” Scholes said.
“There were a few of those where we happily had bought ahead,” he added. “There were some where we were borrowing from future projects that will delay those.”
COVID also affected the timing of grand-opening celebrations.
““Qualitatively, it was an odd time … let’s go have a grand opening, but it’s delayed for six months because nobody is doing in-person parties,” he said.
Sussman said much of Ent’s Northern Colorado growth can be attributed to embedding itself in the community, a task that has fallen in part on Fred Jacobs, a veteran of Northern Colorado’s banking industry who now works as Ent’s senior manager for media relations and sponsorships.
Jacobs, who spent almost 22 years at First National Bank of Omaha, “has really been driving our engagement locally to make sure that we’re part of that,” Sussman said.
“I do think we had to get creative about how we did things, and just engagement in the community and trying to find ways to do that,” she said. “That’s the other piece that I do think helped, as we were going into a market that was new to us a few years ago, really embedding ourselves in it.”
Sussman said that Ent has shifted how it conducts some events, opting for more weeklong events instead of “one big event,” helping to manage crowd size.
“Despite all of the headwinds, and it doesn’t mean that there weren’t a lot more cartwheels happening behind the scenes, I think we’ve been able to still get in with that combination of the folks who are in our front lines doing fantastic work,” she said.