TAMPA-GTE FCU has rebranded itself as GTE Financial, saying that dropping the credit union from its name allows it to touch on its history while also indicating that it can offer consumers a full slate of financial products and services.

"We have a pretty strong identity inside the counties we serve, particularly around Tampa Bay," said Brian Best, SVP of member solutions.

The 180,000-member, $1.5-billion CU was chartered to serve employees of the Peninsula Telephone Company (later GT&E). Best noted that "GTE was important to us, but we needed to figure out a way to utilize GTE but take away the misconceptions about membership being limited only to certain geographic areas and employer groups. That's the reason we went with GTE Financial; it conveys that we're a community institution and that we offer all things financial."

While the rebranding became official on Aug. 13, the CU began the process nearly two years ago, and in 2011 started discussing the potential change with member groups. The membership spoke up loud and clear that the brand was stale.

"The logo's been out there since the 1970s and it didn't have anything attached to it-the value, the purpose, the culture. All of those different items didn't resonate," said Best. "When we started bringing members in and talking about potential changes, we had comments like 'Oh, it's about time!' and 'Hopefully you'll provide something with energy,' and 'What about the diversity of the Tampa Bay area?' And we didn't just get that from one segment or age group-we got that from all age groups and all walks of life."


'Is There A True Understanding?'

Best noted that had the credit union rebranded completely, rather than just dropping the FCU from its name, it would have been too much like starting over in an area where GTE already has a strong foothold.

"You lose some of the spirit and the history of GTE, and if you're using something different beyond acronyms, the problem you have is 'Is there a true understanding?' GTE helps people understand that GTE is a proud organization that's been in the area for over 77 years, and Financial conveys that it's all things financial."

Keeping the focus on "financial" rather than "credit union," continued Best, helps level the playing field.

"We're still proudly a credit union," said Best.

Removing FCU from the name, he noted "takes away the mental hurdle of 'Man, I can't join.'" However, GTE's advertising will still point to the fact that it is a credit union, and the CU also works to promote member understanding of the importance of CUs and other cooperatives.

"Multiple white papers in the past show that CU or FCU sometimes seem cold, or people think withdrawal or denial or rejection," said Best. "For us it's different; we're proud of the CU piece of it. We want to make sure we can operationalize the best of both worlds."




More info: www.gtefinancial.org

See also: "How GTE FCU Turned Itself Around After 'Closing Down The Shop,'" June 18, 2012 (http://www.cujournal.com/issues/16_25/how-gte-fcu-turned-itself-around-1014321-1.html)

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