You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2009.

slide.001That was the advertising rallying cry of many credit unions over the last several years. As field of memberships opened up to “lives works and worships in every county – or the entire state! “


At a time when the lines between banks and credit unions were blurred, we almost erased them completely by purposefully destroying a primary difference – you had to have a real common bond to join a financial cooperative. 


By simply publishing your field of membership definition and confusing it with a membership campaign assumes that everyone wants to join but really didn’t know they could. According to our numbers, the majority of people didn’t care enough to move their relationship. HR 1151 passed on August 7, 1998. By 2002 membership growth was the lowest it had ever been – and if you consider this was the time that many credit unions opened up to indirect opportunities – it was an epic fail.


But things are changing. I recently heard Chip Filson talk about the countercyclical potential that exists right now. The Dow is down, personal savings rate is up, bank lending is down – credit union membership is up. We are the flight to safety. We are known for being rather common in our practices – trustworthy might be a better word. I say we embrace that. 


I got a link to a great article from Callahan & Associates yesterday. Written by Elliott Kashner


Now is the time to reevaluate the efficiency of your growth strategy. Imagine you are bringing in new members at 4% of the current membership, but letting 2% slip out the back door. Would it cost your credit union more to increase new member acquisition to 5% or reduce member attrition to 1%? Further, how will a high member turn-over rate influence the effectiveness of your cross selling?


My hope is that this recession will kill membership drives that feel like bribes.  We need to stop cheapening the entry to our club with phrases like “It’s only $5.00 to join” or “If you open an account today we’ll give you a free iPod!” Instead, we need to nurture and cherish the members we have. We need to reward them for their loyalty at every opportunity. We need to listen to them – what drives their loyalty? Quite simply, we need our members to market for us again.


(with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy)


  • You’ve ever stood in a hotel parking lot at 4am holding your car keys above your head clicking on the unlock button to find your rental car only to see the tail lights flashing in front of you.
  • You’ve woken up in the middle of the night to pee, and have no idea where you are.
  • You know where ORD, LGA, BWI and IAD are.
  • You understand that the remote control in your hotel room is germ central – so you use the liner to the ice bucket to change channels.
  • You know that:
    a “weather delay” really means, we can’t find the pilot
    a “flight cancelled” on a small prop plane means we didn’t sell enough seats
    a “crew delay” means the pilot needs to sober up
    a “mechanical” delay means we can’t find the pilot
  • Should there be an emergency before take-off and someone had to recite the safety announcements for the flight attendant, you could do it. 
  • You can look at a container of “liquid” and tell from 20 feet out if it is 3 oz. or 3.5 oz. 
  • You know when it’s “rookie season” and plan your TSA route accordingly (avoiding families, cowboys and punk rockers).
  • You know that the ticket and gate agents hold all the power in the world – and there is not reason to EVER piss them off.
  • You’re standing in front of the departure monitors in an airport – and can’t remember where you’re going……and then do…..home.



IMG_0381My wonderful niece Leslie came out to see us this week-end. She’s a Special Ed teacher, and mother of two. It’s her first vacation without the family. So I asked her – what do you want to do in New York? Go to MoMA! The Museum of Modern Art. 


According to their website –  MoMA is a place that fuels creativity, ignites minds, and provides inspiration. 


The admission is twenty bucks – times 3. I’ll admit it – I plunked down $60 and immediately thought of what ELSE I could do with that kind of money. But I love my niece, and this is where she wanted to go. 


The main room looked like someone was setting up for a garage sale. There was all this crap laying on laying on the floor- shoes, books, old appliances, cell phone chargers, empty pop bottles, towels, beat up games with pieces clearly missing. WTH? Mark and I looked at each other – thinking the same thing. Leslie was in the back of the room reading the story of the installation


Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) explores notions of transience and impermanence with installations that combine aspects of performance, video, photography, and sculpture. Projects 90, his first solo U.S. museum show, presents his recent work Waste Not. A collaboration first conceived of with the artist’s mother, the installation consists of the complete contents of her home, amassed over fifty years during which the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong, or “waste not,” was a prerequisite for survival. The assembled materials, ranging from pots and basins to blankets, oil flasks, and legless dolls, form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through.


And so we did – with fresh perspective.  Instead of piles of junk, it began to look like a 3 dimensional quilt. Nothing material was ever tossed. Buttons, lids to jars, worn out shoes. They may have lost their original purpose, but in times of great need, what other benefits lie within their sole? 


In the spirit of bricolage – I challenge myself to find “other uses” for my garbage. 


Any ideas?

slide.001That’s how many people are attending the Southwest CUNA Management School this year*. A three year management program on the campus of Texas Christian University

Last night my dear friend Janine McBee, Director of the school, invited me to Tweet with her class in a first-ever-loosely-based-on-BarCampBank-iProxy-Twitter event. Or as she put it in her email to me:

The gate has been left open and the animals have escaped. No turning back. Goal is to mix up expertise, geography, asset size and help facilitate students learning from each other.

Who would have thought that I’d be leading a charge to help build the business case for social media?

And so we did – in 140 characters or less. Contributed from Washington D.C. to L.A. to NYC! It was great – I even participated on my iPhone in my car! 

I applaud Janine’s courage! There’s not dipping her toe in the social media water. Dabbling is death – sometimes you just gotta jump in the pool and make a big gigantic splash. And she sure did! (Check out the #SCMS on Twitter!)

*I’m not sure exactly how many “characters/people” are attending this year, but it made for good copy. They DO limit their classes to 50 people for maximum interaction though so my math may be close.

IMG_0368Love him or hate him, he’s an American Icon and if you had the opportunity to be a part of his show (and the tickets are free!) you’d take it.


So that’s what we did yesterday. Took the 11:30am train to the city to queue up by 2:00 for a 4:30 start. 


I know – some of you are thinking – but wait! It’s Late Night with David Letterman! Well…..eventually. 


Turns out the audience is a big part of the show. The historic Ed Sullivan theatre is not that big – I’m gonna say it maybe seats 400 people. So we have to SOUND big and happy and enthusiastic and laugh heartily and NEVER make that “Whoo Whoo” or dreaded Arsenio Hall noise. There were microphones hanging quite low to pick up audience laughter – not built for primal screeching. 


We were literally trained, tested, and coached by Pages before entering the theatre. They were wonderful. They make it all happen in my opinion. Young enthusiastic, caring kids whose only job is to make sure that everyone has a good time, they follow some basic rules and we work together to make a one hour production perfect. They said things like “David is Simon – You are Garfunkel. David is Elton John – You are his Bernie Taupin. You’re a team. He can’t do this show without you.”


That naturally got me thinking about the branch “experience.” The branch is our stage, and each day before those doors open, do we get the performers pumped up? Remind them what we are about to do and why it’s important? 


When the show was over Dave thanked us all for coming and the Pages lined up at the exits and thanked us all for a wonderful performance. 


When’s the last time we said that to our tellers? 


I’m shopping around for a new credit union.  I’ve been trying to keep my account at Point West Credit Union in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I love the credit union, the CEO, Robert Barzler and my MSR, Randy Majors. 


I haven’t lived there for over five years. I should be the poster child for the shared branch network. I’ve been able to easily bank in Seattle, Washington and in New Mexico – but now I live in New York. It’s a whole different world here.


First of all – forget about using an ATM for a deposit and rarely can you find one that won’t surcharge you. So I’ve been forced to go into a branch like a Boomer. I’m not sure if it’s just my neighborhood, but man these are some surly tellers. And the lobby is a first class dump. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but this place is D.E. pressing. 


I’m a pretty cheery person, so it’s getting to me that I cannot win over these front line folks. It doesn’t help that they have to sit in thick bullet proof cages. They are extremely protective of their pens. AND they’re not even credit union branded pens (maybe that’s why). Here’s what a typical deposit looks like:img25


ME: Hi! I’m a shared branch member and I need to make a deposit.


ST (Surly Teller): Slides said pen and deposit slip through little hole and says “Fill this out.” 


ME: Filling it out – (oh, and it’s a third generation photo copy, poorly cut). Now I slide it back with my check.

ST: Can I have my pen back?


ME: Oops. Sorry.


ST: Scrutinizing the hell out of my check. Holding it up to the light and 9 times out of 10 takes it to her “supervisor” for approval. These checks are almost always Cashier’s Checks drawn on Corporate Credit Unions. I had one from a speaking gig I did for CUES


ST: “Why is CUES paying you?” 


ME: “Oh, you know about CUES?” 


ST: “Yeah, I had to take some class from them.” 


ME: “Oh, well I spoke at their conference.” 


ST: Places Nazi hold on my check. Doesn’t tell me. 


ME: Smiling.

ST: “NEXT!” as she looks past me.

Today I saw a story about the Polish Slavic Credit Union in NY. Hey! I’m living with a Pole! Maybe I can join? I pull up their website. WOW! They have two versions. One in Polish, one in English. Now that’s brand. I click on “Join.” Founded in 1976 (fairly young credit union). And they have a branch on Long Island!


I enter my zip code. Takes me to the next page. Now they want to know if I’m a member of one of the following:


Polish/Slavic Center

Polish Cultural Foundation

Friends of Copiague

Polish Supplementary School Council of America or the

General Pulaski Memorial Parade Committee


Hmmmm. This is gonna be harder than I thought. But wait, I can also join if I am of Polish or Slavic descent. I’m not, but my partner Mr. Mark Sadowski is!


Technically I am of Polish decent. Found out my great grandparents were born in Prussia (the part that is now Poland) even though they entered Ellis Island from Germany. But I digress.


trenton-400This is a credit union with a common bond! They don’t want just anyone who lives, works or worships in an eight county area. Wow! I want to join. 


So here’s my point. The surly credit union used to just serve teachers. Now anyone who lives, works or worships in 14 listed communities can join. But seriously, why would I? Because they’re less than a mile from my home?


If that’s the only reason we’ve given people to join, we’re in trouble. I want to feel a sense of “belonging.” I want people to look at my Debit Card and say “Hey, I’m Polish too!” 


One of the greatest unnecessary marketing strategy deaths in our industry was that of common bond. Many times we had no choice, our sponsor dissolved. But in most cases, the need for greed, and bigger is better took over and we poo pooed our founders and threw that net as wide as the law would allow. Changed our name to a drug inspired jumble of letters and funded membership bribe campaigns that cheapened our reputation and yielded little if any loyalty. 


Now as the recession smacks us down, more and more credit unions are forced to close branches in areas that they had no reputation.


Back to basics.

Back to being Polish.

Many people ask me about my flying pig logo.

What does it mean? Why did I choose it?

It does not mean “when pigs fly” as in “when hell freezes over” aka the impossible.

In fact, I adopted the flying pig as my logo to mean the exact opposite. Question everything. Why CAN’T pigs fly? We are only limited by our imagination. 

flyingpigToday I received this pig in an email message from my dear friend Gene Blishen. Gene’s a super smart guy and someone I greatly admire. The fact that he thought of me, remembered my logo and sent me this pig made me realize that I have become branded. 

Brand is NOT your logo – it’s what it stands for. 

Thanks Gene – you made my day!

I’d say Happy 4th of July but I doubt Canadians care about our day of fireworks, cook-outs and general drunkenness.

I am very passionate about loyalty. And many of you know that I’m a kool-aid drinking Fred Reichheld NPS purist!

IMG_0225That’s why it’s so important that credit unions develop a standard methodology for calculating their relationship Net Promoter Score. The Member Loyalty Group has done just that.

The beautiful thing about NPS is its simplicity. Fred Reichheld intended the survey tool to be “open source” meaning, anyone can do it. You don’t have to hire a statistician to calculate the score.

Simply ask a random sample of your members (to calculate a statistically significant response rate use this calculator) the ultimate question:

“How likely is it that you would recommend the credit union to a friend, family member or co-worker?” On a scale of 0 – 10.

Those that score you a 9 or a 10 are fiercely loyal promoters. They will do three things for you:

1. Buy more from you.
2. Market for you.
3. Tell you how to improve their credit union.

Number 3 is done by asking the simple follow-up question Why did you answer the way you did?”

Detractors are defined as those that score you between 0 and 6. Why such a large scale? Because Fred found in his twenty years of research that loyalty is not easily won. And those that score you even a 6 are likely to defect. Passives are members sitting on the fence at 7 and 8. They are satisfied but can be easily wooed by the competition.

To calculate the value of your brand you simply take the percentage of promoters (your loyalty assets) and subtract the percentage of detractors (your loyalty liabilities). According to Member Loyalty Group, the average credit union industry score is 55%. This is nearly five times the banking industry. But I think it should be much higher.

Remember, hope is not a strategy. I know many credit unions have engaged in this important measure but are hoping their scores go up. Tying employee incentives to such a goal without really diving into the data and listening to members. NPS is not a survey, but rather a discipline, like accounting. 

The founders of the Member Loyalty Group get this. Addison Avenue, BECU, Baxter, Educators (Racine, WI) San Francisco Fire and America First all have Member Loyalty as a separate department in their organization. They listen and respond to members daily. Not annually.

My passion for this program – that I really think is the missing link between your credit union’s brand and your bottom line – began with the Filene Research Study that was published in May of 2007. At that time, the benchmark came in at 54.3%.

Two years later we raised our number to 55%. I still think that’s way too low. And with the banks doing everything they possibly can to market FOR us right now – let’s get that number up!

Who’s with me?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 993 other subscribers


July 2009