Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: ncua (page 1 of 2)

Even More Bad Advice – Part 2

If you thought the last post was awful, this one is worse. We’re back to giving bad advice. This time, we’re talking choices, external link warnings, and, because it’s my top pet-peeve, passwords again!

More Options Is Always Better

“Enjoy checking…with choice! Find the account which matches your needs from our 5 different plans. They’re basically all the same, besides a 0.01% dividend. But who cares…options are essential!”

I get the concept: By creating a solution for every possible need, you can appeal to any potential member. Thus, your membership potential isn’t any one category, it’s humans (and sometimes even that is stretched…why can’t your dog share in savings?). Now that I’m thinking about it, a savings account for your pets is pretty cool. You could put away for their essentials, vet bills, unexpected challenges, and more. It’s like a savings goal, but separated in a fun way. Ok, that one is excluded.

Where was I? Oh, yes, choices. My business works primarily with the auto lending side of credit unions. In it, there is one main goal: Encourage the member to get pre-approved. However, people look for a car before a loan (unless they have no clue what they can afford/finance). As a result, many credit unions set up car-buying resources. They include calculators, lengthy PDF guides, and external company links. In many cases, they’re not even affiliated with those outside links! (Keep this in mind, it comes up later) What are you doing? Keep it simple! One link to do the fun “build/find a car” with a partner program (Disclosure: My company offers exactly this) and another to get pre-approved. Those outside company links? They often have their own financing programs. Bye bye loan (or ever knowing that member is looking to buy a car).

You may have heard of the “Paradox of Choice”. Give someone too many options and they’ll never make any decision. In fact, new research shows that this isn’t 100% true (science doubts itself always, boys and girls). What they found was that better options are better. More options for the sake of options makes people do one of two things: 1) Never decide and do nothing or 2) Decide based on meaningless factors (possibly because the important ones are hard to understand or not immediately obvious). If you must offer options, make sure they are equally good and clearly different.

External Link Warnings Keep Members Safe

A vestige of the World Wide Web’s “dark ages”, these are pop-up messages telling the browser that they are now leaving so-and-so’s website, and they cannot guarantee their safety, security, or that delivery will be in 30 minutes or less. You don’t need them. Many credit union legal teams claim they are mandated, but the only reference I’ve ever uncovered is a non-binding NCUA guidance from 2003. That’s Pi, or pre-iPhone. Weather widgets, local news scrollers, and other useless distractions were commonplace on most websites. Sure, if someone was clicking from their online banking to see what the latest news is in Anytown, USA, yeah, I’d want to ensure it was clear that site isn’t us.

You’ve learned a lot since then.

And if you’re that worried about where you are sending members, why send them there? (Remember the post Trusted Partners!) I’ve seen external link warnings on links to NCUA, loan applications, and more. You have legally-binding agreements with these partners or providers! It gives me the feeling these credit unions just said, “The world is a scary place. Let’s terrify our members, too. Oh, and make sure they never use our products.”

Alright, your legal team insists the warnings are necessary. Can’t argue. Just make them friendlier! Instead of a long text field in legalese, create a bright-colored, concise text notice. “Hey, just so you know, this link goes to someone we work with. They’re great, but we have to let you know they might have different policies on privacy than us. Click here to continue or just wait 5 seconds and we’ll get you on your way!”  Here’s an example from a client (name redacted). It’s still a bit long for my taste, but isn’t scary if you read it:

Simple, friendly, and still accurate. Always remember your mission. You’re people serving people. The second you adopt the terminology people associate with “big banks”, you’re no different.

So, instead of slapping warnings on every link, be diligent in working with people and companies who truly share your mission. Then you don’t need to warn anyone about anything. And, if it’s essential, be nice about it.

Passwords With Symbols Are Most Secure

We covered this in passing last time. But since the focus was on changing passwords, I want to cover this independently. Your password doesn’t need to go to the gym. And no, your password doesn’t even lift, bro.

Password strength is determined by how hard it is for a computer to figure it out, strictly by guessing. And you know the easiest way to make it really hard? Length. Not symbols. Not using aLterNatinG cases. Not replacing 13tt3rs with numbers. Sheer length. Here’s that amazing xkcd comic to explain why, once again.

If my password was “GoshIneverrememberpasswordsnomatterwhattheyare”, I can guarantee you, no computer in existence today will ever crack it. Yet you’ve already memorized it.

Many recent password leaks have had passwords figured out because the security they used was garbage. I can’t help you there. Insist their system gets an outside security audit regularly, and, if they’re responsive, ask if they’re using salted password hashes. If they aren’t, don’t give them your information.

With good security and strong passwords (ie. long ones), you can enjoy the convenience of online services with little worry of your information being compromised.

I never want to see those, “Your password must include 6 symbols, 2 emoji, 3 different cases, and one name of your favorite pet” prompts again!

And that’s just a bit more bad advice.

Image credit: ArsTechnica, http://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/correcthorsebatterystaple.jpg

Why Credit Unions Must Stand Up Against “Alternative Facts”

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Facts are facts. If you hear any qualifier in front of that word, they’re trying to mislead you in some way. “Alternative facts” is just the latest effort. Just because the “legitimized lying” you see now does not yet affect you doesn’t mean it won’t.

Politics and daily life intersect often, moreso within a highly-regulated industry. Any of you who attended the GAC have firsthand understanding. How you are perceived is often more important than the actual realities of a situation. If nothing else, dealing with a perception problem slows down the addressing of real issues. Imagine if one or more big banks decided, “you know, we should wipe credit unions off the map” and put together a PR/lobbying campaign with the below “alternative facts”. Think about who has the largest lobbying budget. Is it your credit union?

  • Credit unions are havens for money-laundering. Plenty of people have said it.
  • Did you know: Credit unions pay their board members the money they claim goes back to you in dividends. #notforYOURprofit
  • Some studies claim that credit unions charge lower and fewer fees. But the research is not settled. It appears to be an NCUA hoax. Many credit unions collude to perpetuate the lie. In fact, banks are always the better price option. Take a look at our “study”.

How would you as an industry respond? Or individually? Could you ignore it? No. But it’s so outlandish that some people will raise questions. Even the suggestion of such activities in the media taints all credit unions. And now you’re responding on their (made-up) topic, instead of pursuing your own mission. If it were a boxing match, you’d be the one against the ropes, even though you’re just in town for the comedy shows. How did you even end up there?

I’m sure none of you reading this would consider the other possible angle, but, what if the credit union was the instigator? Poor members. Imagine this:

You close a loan on your dream ride for 3.49%. When you receive the first statement, it declares at 5.49%. When you present the contract, they ignore you, hang up, or ask you to leave. Knowing it’s illegal, you try to speak to a consumer protection agency. Your credit union threatens to report you to collection agencies and flag you at the credit bureaus. You know you’d eventually win, but are years of credit challenges worth it?

Or another situation:

You see an unauthorized charge on your account, so you call to dispute. They claim their fraud-detection finds every occurrence, and it didn’t trigger on that one. Therefore, it is obviously not fraud. After not getting anywhere, you decide to complain on social media. They issue a gag order against you, then sue you for slander.

The latter examples are far less likely. But think about how you’ve felt when you know you’re being railroaded by a company. Powerless? Questioning if you’re actually right? Yeah, you’d never suggest becoming a credit union member ever again.

For the more likely of these scenarios, credit unions are the underdogs, and thus are vulnerable to well-funded smear campaigns. But, this all seems too extreme. No way it could happen. Right? Right?

Legitimized lying hurts everyone. We need to stand up against it in all forms.

Image credit: Pinocchio, Disney

Cash Out Needs Cash In

None of us want to see another lending crash. With today’s NCUA and FDIC insurance programs, money won’t be lost, but investments, collateral, and jobs are always in limbo.

How many of you know someone at a credit union which underwent a managed merger, either as the takeover entity or the one being absorbed? It accelerates a consolidation of the market, sure, but I don’t need to explain to any of you the hardships endured.

This post arises from a situation we faced during a recent partner planning meeting. The credit union had less-than ambitious goals for their auto lending growth. “Odd”, we thought. It was not until later in the meeting that we learned some background on their numbers.

Ever hear the phrase, “too much of a good thing”? This credit union was living it. They had been quite successful recently in their lending, so much so their cash reserves were depressed. The institution no longer had large sums of cash to lend and chose to devote marketing resources on growing their share account values. Turns out it isn’t an uncommon problem, as reported by CreditUnions.com

What a wild challenge! It got me thinking. How can a credit union build cash reserves which are secure for a period of time, yet provide a value to their members? While, of course, having a low cost of attainment and maintenance?

I’m no financial expert (if my schooling had finance, I don’t remember). However, before I became more involved in investing, my go-to “safe bet” was a Certificate of Deposit. One year, three years, even 5 years; it was ok, since the money was safely locked away and earning a fixed interest.

Might CDs be a cost-effective strategy for growing cash reserves? No debit card required, the cash has a guaranteed term, and the member is happy to get more than 0.00014% interest.

Granted, I grew up in a world of Ferengis hoarding gold-pressed Latinum and a Starfleet which did away with money hundreds of years in the past. Perhaps I’m Scotty talking into the computer mouse in confusion.

Disclosure: As an independent agent working with credit unions, forced mergers are usually bad for our business. If our partner is the one being absorbed, we can probably bid their alliances goodbye. However, if it’s the other way around, we may find the potential market expanded. In truth, we would much rather expand our business through organic growth and greater credit union partner success. So, credit unions, please use your best judgment on maintaining a conservative loan to shares ratio. We are but lowly partners and should never be looked to for financial management advice. Besides, I’m a geek Millenial/Gen Y. Everyone knows you can’t trust us.

Disclosure 2: Image from Star Trek: DS9. Source: http://www.adafruit.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/quark_600.jpg

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