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.

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