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Looking to make improvements at your credit union? Credit Union Journal's Best Practices Awards program is a treasure trove of tested, results-driven strategies developed by credit unions to boost growth, improve efficiency, cut costs and drive revenue.
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Altra FCU

LA CROSSE, Wis.—With an aging membership and rising operational costs, Altra FCU needed a comprehensive new strategy to create new, long-term relationships, "starting with Generation X and the Millennials, all the way to the rising Generation Z."

So last year the $1.1 billion CU upgraded its mobile banking app and added mobile remote deposit capture from Bluepoint Solutions increasing mobile users by 35%.

Its new mobile strategy dovetailed with the culmination of a three-year campaign to attract tech-savvy members, which included creating a strong social media presence. "We added a youth coordinator to reach out to potential members still in their teens, and delivered financial literacy programs in partnership with local colleges and high schools," said CFO Mary Isaacs.

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<P>American First CU</P>

La Habra, Calif. — By adopting a new member acquisition and growth strategy American First Credit Union increased many metrics, including doubling the number of new retail checking accounts opened in branches.

Over a 12-month period, American First CU attracted 879 more retail checking members than the same period in 2013. As a result, the $500 million-asset CU averaged 11.36 new retail checking members per branch per week -- a stunning 98% increase.

"We were looking for ways to increase acquisition of members who would see the credit union as their primary financial institution (PFI)," said American First CU's COO Theresa Davy. "Recognizing that the household transaction account was the key to that important status, we began to look at increasing checking acquisition."

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<P>Dover FCU</P>

DOVER, Del. — Dover Federal Credit Union wanted to increase loan growth and frontline member engagement.

So the $421 million CU hired Celeste Cook of cuStrategies to create and implement an effective credit score analysis (CSA) program to kick-start the credit union's waning lending operations.

And it worked. In just the first six months of this year, Dover generated $61.5 million in loan volume, matching its total loan volume total for 2014, according to Vice President of Member Services Chaz Rzewnicki.

"We had our two biggest months in the history of our credit union with June closing at $17 million and July at $13 million, resulting in a total of $74 million with five months of opportunity still remaining in 2015," Rzewnicki said. (By the end of October, that figure climbed to $105 million.)

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<P>First Tech FCU</P>

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—First Tech FCU wanted to connect more strongly with new members in the first 30 days after they joined the credit union.

So late last year, the $8.3 billion CU launched its "New Member Welcome Series" as a way to interact with new members early and often as well as to create a consistent onboarding experience. The campaign includes a series of automated e-mails and scheduled follow-up phone calls.

And the results were impressive.

Some 80% of members who joined the CU in June and received the New Member Welcome Series had opened a checking account by Oct. 31 vs. 61% of members who did not receive the outreach.

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<P>Fort Community CU</P>

FORT ATKINSON, Wis.—A new innovative, integrated mobile app has improved online services for a growing number of Fort Community Credit Union's members.

"We didn't want to be one of those financial institutions that said, 'Hey, we're only $220 million in assets and we can't do innovative things,' " said Chief Retail Officer Danielle Frawley. "We pushed our vendors to deliver what we believed our members wanted, and they came through for us."

What FCCU members wanted was a comprehensive transactional mobile app that combined a range of online services with the CU's existing Buzz Points retail program that rewards members for buying local. Frawley turned to Malauzai Software Inc. to pitch the idea.

The result: an app that allows member-to-member money transfers; allows members to make loan payments; access credit card and loan balances; and do remote deposit capture–among other services.

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<P>Hughes FCU</P>

TUSCON, Ariz. – By integrating cloud-based remote eSignatures into lending document processes here, Hughes Federal Credit Union has hit milestone goals, including increasing indirect lending volumes by 27%.

"The Centralized Lending Department went from a no-funding to the single largest direct side funding operation within the credit union in just a few months," said Hughes FCU's VP of Lending Andrew Britton. "Members are eager to take advantage of a technology that puts them in the driver seat to sign their loan documents at their convenience."

The technology Britton referenced is IMM's cloud-based remote eSignature solution Document Exchange. Prior to deploying IMM's platform, the $808 million CU had a loan processing platform that took approximately three weeks. Today, loans are processed in two hours.

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<P>Mountain America CU: Member Engagement Officer</P>

WEST JORDAN, Utah –A new frontline position created by Mountain America Credit Union here has improved member/employee interactions.

The $4.8 billion CU recently designed a "Member Experience Officer" (MEO) responsible for meeting all member needs, including: teller transactions, opening new accounts, analyzing credit needs and recommending products and services that will help members achieve their financial dreams.

Jason Rogers, SVP branch administration for Mountain America, said the MEO role has helped improve the member experience by eliminating the time that is spent waiting for an employee to assist a member who has specific needs, among other things

And the effectiveness of the new training program was reflected in Mountain America's member survey scores. Branches employing MEOs between April 1 and June 30 showed an average composite member service score 5% higher than branches that without MEOs.

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<P>MACU Pavaso</P>

WEST JORDAN, Utah—Mountain America Credit Union has partnered with Pavaso to implement a new digital collaborative closing process called QuickClose to provide a better experience to members applying for mortgages.

The $4.8 billion CU teamed with tech vendor Pavaso for the CFPB's eClosing Pilot program in August 2014.

When MACU and its vendor partner created QuickClose, they had a number of objectives including: reducing confusion, consolidating communication channels and providing members more time to review the entire closing package.

The results and post-closing savings for Mountain America were significant.

For example, the credit union was able to eliminate four full-time employees who were previously needed to ship files to investors.

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<P>Maps CU</P>

SALEM, Ore —When Maps Credit Union created an in-house "Idea Lab" last year, the $500 million institution sent a message that it was looking to innovate.

"The rise of service-oriented architectures and open application program interfaces (APIs) have enabled a new kind of innovation in financial services," said Maps CU Software Development Manager Loren Paulsen. "No longer limited to the range of opportunities enabled by vendor solutions that are closed end-to-end, financial institutions can now integrate multiple best-of-breed components significantly more seamlessly and easily than ever before."

And thanks to the Idea Lab, Indeed, the CU recently reduced annual non-statement postage expenses by 17% and saved 360 person-hours per year of manual data entry.

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<P>New Dimensions FCU</P>

Waterville, Maine -- New Dimensions FCU is offering its members a type of loan where borrowers can "skip" a scheduled repayment once a year.

Members can apply for the "Skip-A-Payment" feature on the $78 million credit union's website if they have: loans open longer than six months; made current and on-time payments; possess accounts in good standing with the credit union; and not "skipped" any payments within the past calendar year.

New Dimensions promotes the feature during the winter holidays though members can choose any time of year to skip a payment.

The 'skip' is applicable to almost any loan – excluding real estate loans, certificate loans, or lines of credit. In 2014, some 1,000 members qualified for the program.

Last year the CU generated an extraordinary 322% return-on-investment on loans that were part of the Skip-A-Payment program.

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<P>Arizona FCU & America First CU</P>

Two credit unions are using – and praising -- a new weapon in the plastic card security arms race.

Ondot Systems, based in San Jose, Calif., worked with $7 billion America First CU and $1.3 billion Arizona Federal Credit Union – to create the product, called Card Guard by the former and CardPower by the latter.

More than 3,100 of Arizona Federal members have downloaded CardPower, according to Senior Director of Digital Banking Eric Givens.

"In the month of October, there were 111,000 transactions that passed through card controls, with 1,100 of them blocked due to members' controls," Givens said. "Even if just 25% of those transactions were legitimately blocked due to misuse, with an average of about $90 per dispute in October, that equates to about $25,000 in fraud savings."

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<P>The Partnership FCU</P>

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Partnership Federal Credit Union's developed its "ZipLINE Credit Builder" to provide members an alternative to payday alternative loans (PALs).

More than 120 members of the $146 million CU took out PALS last year with interest rates that ranged from 13% to 18%.

"[W]e were not meeting our ultimate goal of helping members break out of the payday loan cycle," said David Martinez, director of lending strategies and business technology at The Partnership. "Our analysis showed that nearly 50% of members with a PAL would open a second PAL after paying off the first. Additionally, the … repeated applications required a great deal of [the CU's] staff's time to process."

So in January Partnership introduced the ZipLINE Credit Builder -- an open-end line-of-credit designed to help members establish a borrowing relationship with the CU composed of three credit limit tiers ($500, $1000, and $2000) with escalating underwriting requirements.

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<P>Pioneer West Virgina FCU</P>

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit executives wanted to move the 75-year-old CU's marketing more aggressively into social media.

The $191 million institution was relying heavily on traditional media, primarily local newspapers, to advertise, according to President and CEO Dan McGowan.

Pioneer took a two-pronged approach to generating new sales through social media: the first was using Facebook postings to boost visibility to a broader audience.

The second, more personal approach was just through word-of-mouth social interactions among members with their friends and family. And though social media marketing isn't exactly free, it's still "dirt cheap" compared with advertising in newspaper or TV, McGowan noted.

And now Pioneer is headed toward "record earnings" this year in part thanks to a significant reduction in marketing expenditures.

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<P>Technology CU</P>

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Ensuring that members, especially millennials, are satisfied with technology offerings is a challenge for most credit unions. But when operating in the shadows of Silicon Valley, the stakes are higher.

"Members expect constant connectivity, ease-of-use, personalization, high transparency and speed — all wrapped up in an intuitive digital experience—think Uber and iTunes," said Technology Credit Union's SVP of Marketing Kate Duggan.

To ensure the member experience would be maximized, the $2 billion CU upgraded its online banking platform, including a customizable dashboard as well as financial management and budgeting tools, among other things.

And members are happy about it. The CU conducts monthly membership satisfaction surveys and just received a 95% approval rating.

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<P>Toledo Metro Federal Credit Union</P>

TOLEDO, Ohio -- Toledo Metro Federal Credit Union turned to Walmart for some loan marketing inspiration.

More than one-third of the community CU's $32 million loan portfolio was subprime paper charging members nearly 18% interest on their loans, according to President and CEO Dan Zimolzak, TMFCU's president and CEO.

So the $45 million CU's adapted a Walmart-inspired, price-rollback marketing scheme to lower those high interest rates.

Now, low-income borrowers paying the CU's top interest rate could earn an interest-rate rollback to lower levels through regular payments of all their bills, including CU loans, and by exhibiting overall good credit practices.

"Technically all members qualify for the program, but it's the ones with subprime loans who benefit the most," Zimolzak said.

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<P>United Federal Credit Union</P>

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Close observation of member share draft account activity, combined with the funds management capabilities of a sophisticated software program helped United Federal Credit Union reduce its Federal Reserve deposit obligations and free up more funds to better serve its 130,000 members worldwide.

Last year, the $1.87 billion CU began using a deposit reclassification program offered by CetoLogic, which enables UFCU to make the most of the money it holds on deposit.

UFCU offers a checking account that pays high interest rates and offers incentives on balances up to $25,000. CetoLogic's program analyzes member account history, determines how much of each checking account balance is a non-transaction balance, then sweeps those funds into a savings account to eliminate the need to have corresponding reserve funds on deposit with the Fed.

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<P>Workers' CU</P>

FITCHBURG, Mass. – Business leaders know their enterprises thrive on efficiency and productivity. But learning to capitalize on those goals for maximum returns – well, that's another challenge altogether.

A need for greater efficiency led $1.2 billion Workers' Credit Union to tap into Connections Online, a cloud-based management software program from consulting firm Cardwell Leadership, based in Westlake, Ohio. The ability to create a balanced scorecard that enabled management-level staff to work more effectively as a team in accomplishing organizational goals and objectives provided definite advantages for the credit union.

The platform that enabled all staff to see and understand the credit unions' goals in serving its 85,000 members, bringing both clarity and transparency to the fore, breaking down "silos" and promoting both staff buy-in and participation.