VENTURA, Calif.-Bank Transfer Day still has not stopped for $542-million Ventura County Credit Union, prompting it to query the new members to determine where they previously did their banking.

Tina Estes, VCCU's director of marketing, told Credit Union Journal 79% of new members came from Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase.

"What surprised us was Chase was higher than Wells and BofA," she said. "Chase is relatively new in our area, having taken over many Washington Mutual branches."

New members also were asked if they had belonged to a credit union before. Although VCCU had expected the majority would say no, 54% stated they had belonged to a credit union previously.

The survey was sent on Nov. 29, and VCCU asked for responses by Dec. 16. Estes said 90% of new members added in the past two months had opened a checking account, which she said is "a good number we want."

"One member moved 10 accounts: all of their kids' and their's. We had some high-dollar CDs: $100,000 from one person."

But while the new memberships are a plus, Ventura County is obviously putting its focus on lending. The credit union has an eight-month-long on-boarding program in place; each month new members are sent a postcard that is targeted to their age and stage in life.

"We won't send a mortgage postcard to a 20-year-old because that won't make sense," she explained. "Our research shows most people open another product within their first 90 days of membership, which is why it is so important to reach out to people during those first few months. Once someone opens an account they tend to forget about it, so we want to make sure they are satisfied and they are aware of all the other products, services and loans we offer."

Still More Coming
Bank Transfer Day was officially on Nov. 5. But volume hardly dropped off since then.

"We have not slowed down. We don't have final numbers for December yet, but we normally do 400 new members in a month, we did 800 in November and were on track to do another 800 in December," said Estes.

The influx has been accomplished largely without advertising, Estes continued, noting there remain residual benefits from the coverage Bank Transfer Day received in the mainstream media.

Ventura County CU did not have Saturday hours until it opened its branches on Bank Transfer Day to handle the crowd and discovered not only were new people coming in, but many existing members showed up to perform transactions, as well. Estes said management had been thinking about adding Saturday hours at some point during 2012, but the success of Nov. 5 caused it to be moved it up.

"When I go to our branches we are just as busy as we were in early November," she reported. "We are staffing up to add Saturday hours starting March 3, because we have been so busy."

Search Engine Marketing
In its survey, VCCU asked new members why they chose it as opposed to another credit union. Estes said approximately 40% attributed their choice to recommendations from friends and family [Note: "recommendation" and "reputation" were placed in the same category].

"Another big reason was many of these people found us when they did Internet searches," said Estes. "We do a lot of search engine marketing and that is paying off. I bought combinations of words such as 'checking account Ventura' or 'checking account Camarillo.' Ads are targeted to where people are sitting and what they have searched before.

"Credit unions should be on Google and utilizing search engine marketing," she added.

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