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Items of Note from Headines Being Made to Those to Come

Not that anyone has the budget, but that credit unions could not have bought the kind of positive press coverage received so far in 2009 goes without saying. Yet an awful lot of the reporting, while not inaccurate, still indicates there is much work to do when it comes to articulating what credit unions are all about (and that's a none-too-subtle hint that the deadline for the Frankie Awards is fast approaching).

Consider this report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week on the P&A of Ensign FCU, which had been placed into conservatorship, by Plano, Texas-based EDS Credit Union. The story was headlined, "New Owner Plans To Keep Ensign FCU Employees."

Split hairs and you can argue that adding an "s" to "Owner" could make this headline at least partially correct. But there are too many bald heads in credit union leadership to spare any hair, and it doesn't address the bigger issue anyway: with so much of the media telling the CU story this year (and next), having the credit union difference reinforced in media reports can only help to drive additional marketshare.

And this doesn't apply just to involuntary mergers; it's critical in any mergers (with members of the affected CUs, too), name changes and just plain opportunities to remind folks just what "credit union" means.

• During the Bank Administration Institute's (BAI) recent Retail Delivery Show in Boston, its CEO, Debbie Bianucci, pointed to new research showing how quickly consumers are adapting to technology. "Five years ago we looked at U.S. consumers to try to gauge preferences for delivery channels," Bianucci said. "About one-third preferred remote channels. Five years later, really the blink of an eye, that number has doubled. Nearly two-thirds of the consumers we have surveyed prefer remote channels. So we're an industry trying to build relationships in a face-to-face, branch environment with consumers who want to deal with us remotely."

Meanwhile, the BAI meeting, which for years has drawn a growing credit union presence, has long been notable for being something of a barometer of the overall shape of the larger financial services industry. During the boom-times just a few years ago, its trade show was an overwhelming, eight-acre bazaar of exhibitors and hagglers from around the world. But two weeks ago its trade show was closer to that of CUNA's GAC, and attendance was clearly off.

Bianucci also offered an indirect nod to the dented image of banks. "Everything is different now. (Customers) look at our organizations differently. So it's up to us to be ready to understand those changes."

• Big-tent trade show or not, the BAI RDS remains the place to unveil new technologies, and the "next big thing" this year was something small-but with large implications.

Whereas B2B technologies have often pioneered breakthroughs that later led to consumer applications, it was the other way around at the Boston event. The influence of Apple's iPhone, and in particular its iTunes' App Store, was readily apparent. They may feel more of an affinity for "PC" in those PC vs. Mac commercials, but no doubt many IT execs have been quick to embrace the iPhone and its App Store model for application delivery in their personal lives. Now they (and others) are coming to expect similar "pick-an-app" delivery in their professional lives, including the share-of-the-revenue model for apps they design.

During BAI, Open Solutions reported it is preparing to roll out an App Store that will allow client credit unions to write their own functionality, share that functionality with other institutions, and share in any revenue that may be derived. SVP-Chief Marketing Officer David Mitchell called it a "game changer." Another company, Continuity Engine, which offers compliance tools, announced the same.

At the same time CO-OP Financial Services has added the iPhone as a means of accessing its mobile banking option, while PSCU Financial Services has released an application for the iPhone, in addition to the iPod Touch, that offers access to its mBanking platform.

In both cases, consumers can download the app from Apple's iTunes store, which places a respective icon/logo on the iPhone/iPod screen.

• And yet, for all that high-tech, a Luddite could still be found at the Retail Delivery Show. Business strategist Ram Charan, after initially telling his audience he would not be using a PowerPoint, then proved he wasn't kidding when he dusted off an overhead projector, complete with handwritten notes and charts.

• A correction is in order. In a recent column I said Holy Rosary Credit Union was in Dover, Del. It's in Dover, N.H.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.

DEADLINE IS NEAR!

Have you done something creative and effective to tell your credit union's story this year? What about the credit union story in general? Have you put the difference in "differentiation?" If so, heed the call for entries for this year's Frankie Awards. The Frankies recognize CUs that most effectively convey what a credit union is all about and why it should matter to members and non-members alike. Previous winners have shown budgets and asset sizes don't matter. And here's the best part — it's free and easy to enter.

Just e-mail me at fdiekmann@cujournal.com with a brief explanation and any support materials of what you've done to tell your story.

Deadline for entries is Nov. 25.

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