Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: member education

Unseen Credit Union Competition: “Respond Immediately!”

Credit unions aren’t just “cheaper banks”, nor are they “banks owned by the people”.  They’re unique community institutions.  At least, I still believe this.  Do you?

This article dives into what happens after a member closes a loan (auto or mortgage) with you. Specifically, we look at the solicitations they receive. And what your role is in helping your member understand it all.

Who’s Your Competition?

It’s tempting to think that your primary competition and challenge comes from the big banks. Sure, they offer similar products and target the same groups of people (ie. your potential membership). Their marketing efforts present them as a community-focused option.  They make it about their customers, not about the money.  I’m no expert, but it definitely sounds like they’re competitors.

It’s true.  They are.  And for many people, you can offer a better option which will save them money.  Yet, besides the exceptional record of Wells Fargo, the national banks don’t engage in “slimy tactics” or attempt to steal customers by just-nearly-but-not-quite misrepresentation.  On the whole, banks (both community and national) want their customer’s business and aim to gain and keep it through honest means.

However, there’s others with a slightly different agenda. This article looks at competition to credit unions besides banks, and how you can use your existing products, member relationships, and educational mission to beat them at their own game.

Loan Closing & What Comes After

Last year, I bought a new car.  Yes, I have a lot of fun when driving.

Shortly after, I began to receive letters in the mail much like this:

Real…ish

Packed in official-appearing envelopes (many had that, “fold each side and tear in order” government style design), with names such as, “Automotive Services Department” or some other bogus, yet “maybe they’re real?” title, they appeared in masse.  They encouraged, no, insisted I follow up immediately regarding my vehicle’s impending warranty expiration.  Never mind it’s a new car, with a 3 year factory warranty included.  I COULD BE AT RISK FINANCIALLY IF I DON’T ACT NOW! Of course, the action to take is to get in touch with whomever runs these shady enterprises (they’re not affiliated with any of your VSC providers, trust me) and make sure my car is protected.  Much protection, indeed.  “Do you cover diagnostic time and taxes?” is a question I would feel obligated to ask if I ever were forced to reach out.

Why mention these letters?  Because every time your member finances with you and every time they don’t, they’re getting dozens of mail pieces like this.  And this is what they ask themselves: Do I know for certain it has nothing to do with my credit union?  Is it a scam?  Can I get a better deal from here or my dealer?  Is it even something I need?  What’s the harm in a call?

It’s unlikely your members will ever ask you any of these questions.  But you can bet they’re asking someone, whether it be Google, that helpful voice in their head, or a spouse or friend.  You can be there for your members in more ways than you think.  And this is what sets you apart.

A Loan Closing Tip

Imagine if at every loan closing (that includes mortgages, because I get things like this for my house all the time), you had a short conversation about potential fraud and things to beware.

“Ok, Jenna, we’re just about done.  Are you excited?  Because I am!  Since we’re here for you across your entire financial life, we want to make sure you’re empowered to spot what’s real and what isn’t.  Here are some examples of letters you’re going to get in the mail, maybe even in your Inbox.

They’re not from us.

All of our communications will always include your member number and our logo. These make themselves look really official, and often have scary wording. Crazy, right?

Please look out for these and make sure any future interaction about your financing is with myself or someone else here at ABC CU.  I know it may seem silly, but we used to see many members fall for similar scams, and we want to help ensure you’re not one of them!

And as far as vehicle service contracts go, we’d be happy to have that discussion to see if it makes sense for you!  Does this make sense?”

Has anyone ever said that to you?  What if they did?  How would that make you feel?  A bit more trusting of your credit union, right?  That they have your back, and want to go above and beyond to keep you safe and secure?  That’s a credit union I want to do business with and share with my friends and family.

In a future post, we’re going to address GAP and warranty coverage (the legitimate ones) and how they differ (or don’t) between credit union, dealer, and insurance provider.  Later on, we’ll educate each other and members on buy-here-pay-here lenders.

It’s About Your Credit Union Mission

Remember, your mission likely includes something about ensuring your members live a financially successful life.  Here’s one easy thing you can implement which may make a big difference for your members.

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How can I tell if my car has been hacked?

  • When you drive, does your GPS talk back with more attitude than normal?
  • Do you find your car going on late-night ice cream runs?
  • Has your car strangled you or your family? More than once?
  • Will your car refuse to perform rolling stops or turn right on red?

If you can say “yes” to any of these, then your car may be hacked. But don’t panic! It’s equally likely your car has just been possessed by a hungry ghost.

We are all acclimated to the security risks on our computers and phones; you update often, avoid sketchy websites, and don’t download questionable software. However, the king of the open road has never dealt with these challenges. Our cars were a sanctuary. The only risk was of being involved in one of 10.8 million accidents per year. But hacking? Leave that to the computers!

Today, your car is a computer as well. In fact, it’s more computer than your computer. Besides the OBD2 service plug under your dashboard, it is a veritable treasure trove of calculating machines. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, airbags, roll compensation, variable headlights, lane guidance, and more all run computations hundreds of times per second. Not to mention the entertainment systems which are more tightly integrated into car operations each year.

News stories describing vehicle hacking sensationalize the event, making it difficult to know whether the problem uncovered is a true risk. Perhaps, then, we cannot blame people for being afraid of their next car being the victim of hackers. A recent survey conducted by Kelley Blue Book put numbers to the suspicions. Of note, nearly half (41%) would consider vehicle security provisions during their next purchase. Over half (58%) felt a permanent solution to the problem will never be found.

That group is correct. If computer code is more complex than “Hello, world!”, it has bugs. Just as your body has a variety of protections against sickness, from skin to an immune system, sometimes both our bodies’ and our computers’ code gets “colds”. The concern is in severity. A small rash might be an inconvenience, but the flu can put you out of commission for days. Same too with the computer. If the bug is serious enough, and a hacker (like a virus) can infect deeply into the system, then the system can be taken over.

The key to ensuring car hacking does not become a safety issue is in the ability to get fixes to the vehicles. Tesla designed their Model S (and all future vehicles) with a wireless update capability, much like your phone. When it’s plugged in and charging, it checks for updates, which can fix security and stability bugs, as well as add new features. Your next drive is then more secure. The Jeep Cherokee you heard was hacked (luckily by good guys) has no such feature, and must either be driven to a dealership or manually updated with a USB drive.

Luckily for Chrysler, people don’t yet see their cars as they do their phones. From a technical standpoint, they’re the same; Internet-connected devices that you depend upon to just work. In the aforementioned survey, 64% would elect to drive to a dealership for a security update to be installed. Would you drive to the Apple Store, wait in line, then wander around the mall for an hour while the latest update is set up on your phone? Of course not. You’d demand better. It’s only a matter of time until this migrates to cars.

Your credit union (you didn’t think I’d get to you, but I did!) has strong security features in place. Your members’ personal and financial information must never fall into the wrong hands, or any other hands, for that matter. But vulnerabilities exist and there are always those looking to exploit for their own ends. Does your IT team ensure both technical problems and human error cannot compromise your core LOS? What about your members? If your last security notice to them was a red bar on your website, they didn’t understand. In the same way you provide financial literacy education, help your members keep a safer digital life. Share the procedures in place at your own branches…does anyone use “password” as their password?

In today’s always-connected society, you are likely the most security-conscious entity your members directly encounter in their daily life. Help them be as great as you at conducting safe online practices. Consider yourself the wireless updates for your members’ security features.

But watch out for that moody GPS. Your delightful British accent isn’t fooling anyone!

Update: Another report has surfaced that the OBD2 port mentioned above connects to an inherently insecure platform, the CAN bus. It’s ok, it’s only on every car made in the last 20 years. However, devices that give the port wireless capabilities, like OnStar or insurance monitoring attachments, put your vehicle more at risk. Me? I’m keeping that port empty, especially given all the self-driving systems on my car. 

Image credit: http://blogthinkbig.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/hackers-new-cars1-620×413.jpg

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