SACRAMENTO, Calif.-2013 will most likely be a "mixed year" for $7.9-billion The Golden 1 Credit Union, but it will be an improvement from 2012.

That is the message from Donna Bland, president and CEO, who noted in the CU's service area unemployment is declining but is still high. She said home values are "beginning to show signs of improvement," especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"About half of our membership is in the Sacramento market, and recently named Sacramento as the No. 2 'turnaround town,'" she reported. "As home prices start to rebuild and people have equity, that will bring a new wave of homeowners who have the ability to refinance, take advantage of these low rates, and then increase either their savings or their spending."

According to Bland, continued improvement of the local economy and housing market should lead to increased consumer borrowing, and she said Golden 1 is "well positioned to take advantage of this because our products are well-priced and we make it easy for people to apply online."

Asked what Golden 1's strategic focus will be in the year ahead, Bland quipped, "Loans, loans and loans."

All joking aside, Bland continued, "Definitely loans, with a lot of emphasis on auto loans, credit cards and first mortgages. We are working with members to get them to take advantage of technology for self-service options. It will provide members value, give them time and make them more committed to the credit union, and it will save the credit union money and allow us to broaden our reach in the community.

"We can serve a large number of members without additional brick and mortar," she added.

Always Aggressively Marketing

Golden 1 will not have to make major changes to its marketing strategy to support its lending focus, Bland said, as it is "always aggressive in marketing because we have to be."

What it does do is change up the marketing messages it puts out to the public so they do not become stale, Bland explained. She said Golden 1 uses a number of channels to reach people in its Northern California service area, including billboards, online banner ads, radio commercials, direct mail and e-mail.

"We try to reach consumers in many different ways because they are all different," she said.

On a similar note, Bland said there is no need to develop "special" interest rate programs because, "In this rate environment every rate is special-they are all very low. So it is about promoting the value Golden 1 provides on the servicing side."

2013 marks Golden 1's 80th anniversary, which Bland promised will be tied to a number of promotions.

In addition to lending, Bland said growing use of checking accounts and bill pay will be a focus during the year ahead. She said Golden 1 "constantly" promotes the fact it has free checking, and that it provides convenience in accessing money for free, including person-to-person payments via Popmoney with an e-mail address or a mobile phone number.

"In the next few months we will be rolling out mobile person-to-person payments," she revealed. "We want to differentiate the convenience of our checking products and the access people have. We promote our ATM network, plus access to 30,000 ATMs in the CO-OP Network. We want to educate members to overcome the perception credit unions are not as convenient. With education and knowledge, people come to realize we are as convenient. We will spend 2013 aggressively marketing and reaching people through various means."

Golden 1 will continue to tap into consumer sentiment that favors companies that work with their local community.

"Our employees are very active in their communities, our branch employees participate in various events that are meaningful to them and we offer scholarships," she said. "People see us out in the community, they see our actions."

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