WEST BEND, Wis.-Glacier Hills CU here is the latest credit union to challenge itself to save members $1 million or more in loan interest.

"We've always tried to save our members money, but we've never put a challenge out to see what we could save," said Dennis Degenhardt, president and CEO of the 12,000-member, $79-million credit union.

Degenhardt noted that Glacier Hills took its cues from Seven Seventeen CU in Warren, Ohio, which had done something similar, with a goal of $1 million-later bumped up to $5-million because it was so successful.

The savings are calculated based on loan refinancings, with members getting a lower rate on loans at the credit union.

"We started with the idea of $400,000 and then $600,000, but I thought that's not going to impress our members; we have to do more than that," said Degenhardt.

So far it seems to be working. In the first month of the campaign, Glacier Hills has already saved members more than $245,000 in loan interest.


How It's Being Marketed

The challenge is known as the "Refi 4U $1,000,000 Challenge," and Glacier Hills is marketing it in a number of different ways.

"It's campaign season, so we've got campaign signs out in front of our three branches," explained Degenhardt. "The sign says 'Refi 4U-The $1 Million Challenge.' It just looks like a regular campaign sign."

Signs are placed in front of the lobby and near drive-up windows, and even branches that don't normally receive a lot of foot traffic have seen an uptick in visits, with members coming inside to ask for more details. "It's an office that doesn't generate much loan business, but those that come in say 'What does this mean for me?'"

The CU is also promoting the challenge on in-branch TV monitors, with ads in local print media and a microsite that Degenhardt expects to launch by the end of May.

"We're going to probably be do some direct mail marketing, targeting members to bring their car loans to us-we're going to look at some type of recapture program," said Degenhardt, adding Glacier Hills is using its own DP system to identify and target specific groups of members, such as those who have not refinanced mortgages in the last three years and may benefit from lower rates.

Of the $245,000 saved so far, Degenhardt said that $201,000 of that comes from mortgage refinancing, while the remainder has come via nearly 30 consumer loans. The credit union's most recent Call Report lists more than 6,500 loans and leases for a total of $54.7 million.


Loan Specials

Glacier Hills is running specials on both auto loans and HELCs to help boost lending during the Refi 4U Challenge. For vehicles newer than 2008, members can get 1.99% for up to 36 months or 2.49% for 48 or 60 months. On HELOCs, members can lock in 1.99% until June of 2013 or 2.49% until Jan. 1, 2015. "We're counting on the Fed's rates staying near zero until late 2014," explained Degenhardt.

The CEO credited historically low mortgage rates with helping push GHCU's member savings so high so quickly. He offered the example of one member who refinanced a mortgage, car loan and credit cards for a savings of about $79,000. The CU is including refinances and savings from its own loans as well as those from other FIs in its push to save members $1 million.

"As a credit union, we talk about how we help people all the time. But how do we show that?" asked Degenhardt. "That was the primary motivator-setting a goal and telling people we're here to save them money, and then do it. If we can keep hitting these numbers, we'll hit our goal in four months. I had hoped to do it by December so that we could announce it at the end of the year, but at this rate we'll hit it by September."

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