In Ventura, Calif., $542-million Ventura County CU has seen Bank Transfer Day transform into Bank Transfer Month. Linda Rossi, SVP-strategic services, said VCCU averages 440 new members per month, but on Bank Transfer Day it opened more than 300 new accounts combined in branch and online, plus another 500 during the remainder of November.
"The question is: is this a short-lived situation or is it a tipping point for credit unions?" observed Rossi, summing up what many are asking. "We don't know the answer yet, but we are making inquiries to those who joined. We are asking if they have ever been a member of a credit union before, where they transferred their money from, and why they chose VCCU as there are a number of local credit union options."
The survey was sent on Nov. 29, and VCCU is asking for responses by Dec. 16, according to Director of Marketing Tina Estes, who noted new memberships are up 25% to 30%. "All of the branches say they still are seeing large numbers of people waiting to open new accounts," she said.
Estes said VCCU has a regular eight-month onboarding program it uses for all new members. Because it is assuming many of the new members are coming from banks and are not used to the credit union way of doing things, it added a letter from CEO Joe Schroeder that explained how CUs work."
In our program people get a postcard based on where they fit in a matrix of income, age, and the products and services they opened," Estes explained. "For those that did not open a checking account, they get a checking post card. People who are over a certain age get a real estate postcard. Statistically, people are going to get these products within the first 90 days of membership, so we want to let people who might not know we are full service just like a bank that we offer loans and credit cards."
Rossi said more than 90% of the people who joined in-branch on Bank Transfer Day opened checking accounts, "which told us they were really looking to establish a full relationship with the credit union. We still don't know how many loans the new members opened yet. We will be tracking those people for the next several months."
In the two weeks leading up to Bank Transfer Day it did a "big push" that included ads in numerous media outlets."
About 10 days before that Saturday we made a decision to open even though we are not normally open on Saturdays," Estes recalled. "Because of the number of members that came in that day to perform transactions, we are now fast-tracking being opened on Saturdays. It was in our 2012 plan, but we saw our members wanted us to be open.
Estes said she hopes all credit unions are taking advantage of the "almost-free advertising" that has been generated before, during and after Bank Transfer Day. Rossi said she is looking forward to receiving the results of the survey to find out why people chose VCCU and what was their "tipping point" in leaving their prior institution."
Credit unions have always been a best kept secret, but there is a lot of momentum for us now," she assessed.