Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Giving Back Has ROI, Too

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Does your credit union give back? That’s a silly question. But does your community support program intricately tie in with member engagement?

A friend of mine used to work for the local chapter of the American Heart Association. After a few years there, she started her own company. It brings non-profits together with companies whose mission aligned with theirs. Essentially, she is a charity to corporate matchmaker.

At first glance, this seems pretty simple. Find company with money (usually through a foundation), bring together with non-profit which needs money. Now pay me a small consultant fee. Not so fast. It turns out, companies started looking at their give back campaigns differently. Instead of just “doing a good thing”, they wanted said good thing to do more. If we’re spending money, the thought process goes, why not have it improve employee satisfaction? Or serve as cause-based marketing to our current and prospective clientele? And charities began to have the same thoughts.

Just as two random single people are not necessarily a good match, the same goes between companies and charities. My friend learns about the core mission and motivations of every client before recommending a pairing. That way, everyone is more engaged, supportive, and excited about the alignment.

Take your credit union. Say you offer a need-based mortgage assistance program. Partnering with a pet rescue charity is fine. Woof. Meow. But imagine if you aligned with a non-profit which helps place struggling and displaced families into low-cost and subsidized housing? Their mission and that of your credit union are the same. You’re a match. And it shows with staff who are excited to volunteer and talk about it to their members (who are then encouraged to help where they can). Heck, some of those members might even be beneficiaries of the charity. Think of the legen-wait for it-dary social media campaign you could set up. So much good can be done for so many, and your credit union can grow in the process. I think it’s safe to say all the families helped by the charity would become members of your credit union. And based on how you treat them like family, they’re not likely to leave. In fact, they’ll probably tell their friends and family about you.

When you get out of the daily grind and remember why you exist, these types of alliances seem so obvious. And it can give your entire team the motivation to serve at their peak abilities. Giving back really does have an ROI.

Since this post is already too long, a future one will dive into some stories of credit unions following this path. Spoiler: Their staff and members love it. So does the bottom line.

Why Net Neutrality Matters To Credit Unions

You may have read something online about Net Neutrality.  Or, your techie friend insisted you submit a comment to the FCC about it.  “The fate of the Internet rests on our speaking out!”, or something along those lines.

What is it, and why am I talking about it on a credit union blog?

Put simply, it’s the principle that all information is treated equally.  And, without it, could mean the end of credit unions.

Net Neutrality has always been a part of the World Wide Web, from its humble beginnings.  Tiny upstarts like Google and Netflix got to where they are today because of net neutrality.  How?  Let’s revisit the early days of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  They are the companies we pay to get us online.  In the early days, it was done through the screeching modem and a list of phone numbers.  Now, it’s your cable, fiber, or DSL connection.  In the 90s, dial-up was common and there were multiple choices for service.  The precursor to my own company ran on an ISP out of Miami.  They were great; fair pricing, experienced support, and we knew we were supporting a local business.  The web through one ISP was the exact same web as through another.  As a result, you knew that your website would load on any other person’s computer, and at approximately the same speed, no matter who they paid to get online, or where they were located.

Now, most of us use one of just a few mega-companies.  In fact, there’s a good chance you have no actual competition in your market.  Sure, you can choose between cable and U-Verse (AT&T) or FIOS (Verizon), but that’s not really competition, is it?  It’s like going to the market and looking for some fruit.  They might have bales of oranges from one farm.  The only other choice is a display of different oranges.  Both seem overpriced.  If you ask the staff where any other fruits are, they explain that it is illegal to carry them.  But that’s a whole separate story.

Bottom line, to get online (via a wire or your phone), you’re using one of a small list of giant corporations.  You don’t have a choice.  And they want to make more money.

Net Neutrality ensures that every site you click or every video you watch gets the same priority through your ISPs lines.  There are provisions for QoS (Quality of Service) technologies to make live communication work better (like FaceTime, Skype, or watching a live Apple event), but no one gets access to an HOV/express lane at the expense of others.  This is a good thing, as it ensures that everyone is on an even playing field.

Here’s where Net Neutrality becomes life or death for credit unions.

Imagine Net Neutrality is erased and the few mega-corporations controlling our access to the Internet decide to take sides (for profit or ideological pursuits).  Maybe Chase and Bank of America have been extremely loyal supporters of Comcast’s lobbying efforts.  It’s good to have friends.  Well, as a “reward”, Comcast decides to give both these banks priority access to all of Comcast’s customers.  Goodness, do their sites load fast on my iPad!  But I should log in to my credit union as well.  Hmm, it doesn’t seem to be loading.  What’s this?  “To access this and 3,000 other financial institution websites, please subscribe to our Banking and More package for only $5 a month.  FYI: You always have free access to Bank of America and Chase Bank!  Thanks for being a loyal Comcast subscriber.”

Do you think your members will pay to access your site?  Some might, but many will just move their banking relationship to the free sites.  Unless you can pay Comcast for priority access?  Yeah, didn’t think that was in your budget.

Oh, and I didn’t mention AT&T.  Or Verizon.  You can pay them too, right?

A loss of Net Neutrality is a loss for the entire credit union movement.

You may be thinking, “yeah, ok, it may not be good, but he’s overreacting.”  Wish I were.  Portugal has been in the news as an example of what happens when Net Neutrality goes away.  Their internet access has “zero-rating” data tiers (so you don’t accrue data usage when visiting certain sites), a first step towards this environment.

We need Net Neutrality for an open exchange of information, ideas, and business relationships.  I’m imploring you to speak out.  You may visit www.gofccyourself.com to submit a comment.  But I’d also suggest you speak to your representatives directly.

All 100 million credit union members are depending on it.

Update: Clarified web access in Portugal.

Disclosures everywhere! …except for there.

Originally published on CUInsight.com

You’re all about openness.  Your new branch design includes sweeping halls, natural lighting, and big windows to provide a welcoming atmosphere.  That snazzy new website encourages whitespace with at-a-glance information on your latest promotions.  Of course, your staff are available to answer any questions members might have, as well as help them create a brighter financial future.

Then there’s your legal team.  An open field isn’t clear enough for them.  And that’s ok, because having an examiner woefully shaking their head is not your idea of a great day.  The lawyers want disclosures on top of disclosures, with a healthy dose of clarity, just in case something could be misinterpreted.

I’ve written about these concepts in previous posts.  Remember that “speed bump”, or website exit warning?  You don’t need it, never did, yet I still encounter them on a regular basis.  It’s tough when your in-house counsel says, “yes we do.”  If it’s between listening to me or them, I’d choose your person.  Clarity on your offerings and operations is essential as well.  We as an industry have a hard enough time getting members to even understand what a credit union is.  Don’t need them confused about what theirs can offer.

Which brings us to member understanding in the face of marketing and legal, combined.

I follow a large credit union on Twitter which embraces the idea of no fees and free accounts.  It’s a main part of their marketing.  While I’m more about finding unique ways to attract members, do what works for you.  “Free everything!” feels a bit “me too” to this geek.  Anyway, this credit union tweeted an image of two wrestlers with the copy, “Stop wrestling with fees.”  It links to their Truly Free Checking details.  The page talks about how awesome the account is and why you should just apply already! (Not quite, but that’s the idea.)  This is what appears when you click the Fees and Terms tab.

“This account doesn’t have any fees tied to a minimum balance requirement.”  And that’s it.  So there’s really no fees at all?  This is amazing!  What a super account!  Oh, wait, “…tied to a minimum balance requirement.”  This reminds me of the phone call with someone which goes, “I hope you’re enjoying your vacation!  I checked in on your house and the garage door totally looks great.”  And?

The account page has no link to the full list of fees (there aren’t any, remember?) or terms.  I dug around on the website and, after more searching than you’d expect, found a Fees page.  Unsurprisingly, it contains the standard laundry list of fees for all the items you’d expect, from check reorders to overdraft.  I’m not putting down the account.  It’s your run-of-the-mill $0 minimum balance free checking account.  Which is fine for many people.  But…

What would legal have to say?  Do you think they saw this page?  I clicked around and, yes, they do feature speed bumps on links to 3rd party partners (partners, because it’s a two-way contractual relationship).  So legal mandated this unnecessary feature, but let a checking account description get away with no disclosure of any fees or terms?

On top of the legal issue, this credit union is only setting themselves up for disappointed members.  Consider the member who wants a no-fee account.  This looks perfect, and if you’re not reading carefully, that one line sure sounds like there are no fees at all.  Imagine their frustration when they get hit with fees for checks, an accidental overdraft, or any number of other actions.

We all want to help members become more financially secure and knowledgable.  So let’s make sure our efforts don’t conflict this goal.

Image credit: Me, showing my mom demonstrate openness and clarity in Rocky Mountain National Park.

« Older posts

© 2017 Credit Union Geek

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑