IOWA CITY, Iowa-One CU is finding members will opt into overdraft protection if you speak with them face-to-face.

The University of Iowa Community CU has found that to be true, achieving a 90% success rate with those it has targeted to explain the new overdraft environment and the CU's new policies, explained CEO Jeff Disterhoft. "I think it's the only way to get them. We may likely use direct mail or outbound calling later on. But when talking with members about fees, it has to be personalized. If not, people may turn a jaundiced eye toward you."

Beginning in January the $960-million credit union had member services teams talking to members, flagged as overdraft users, as they walked into branches. "These people need to talk with someone, and ask follow-up questions about why this is good for them. Really nothing we have done so far has been automated, and I think that speaks volumes about the success we have had."

Front-line staff are trained to understand the new overdraft rules and the CU's policies, and are armed with scripts. They are also paid an incentive for each member they get to opt in. "We had a sales culture in place already, so that is an advantage," Disterhoft admitted.

The credit union has 30,000 checking accounts and has targeted about 7,500 as those who use overdraft a great deal or moderately. Disterhoft said the credit union reached well over half of those members by mid-May, and as the Aug. 15 deadline gets closer, UICCU will likely use outbound calling and direct mail to get to those who do not visit a branch. Disterhoft added that the credit union is also talking to any new member about its overdraft service when they join, and 75% are opting in.

Another reason for the success of the opt-in effort is that UICCU forms cross-functional teams for any large task. Last December a team was formed with representatives from every area of the credit union to formulate an action plan for the new Reg E rules, and the group decided on the personal approach. "From our perspective this is the only way to be effective," Disterhoft said. "If I am relying on just myself and members of senior management for ideas, we will not be as effective. You need your best and brightest minds involved, no matter where they are in the organization or what role they play. You also get greater buy-in this way."

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