PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- For Greylock Federal Credit Union wading into the insurance agency pool has been another opportunity to personalize the member experience.
Greylock Insurance Agency opened its doors in late 2004 with the goal of providing its members "the right coverage to protect what is important."
"When we purchased a local agency we were looking for three things we wanted to provide extra member value, deepen our relationship with members so they use more of our products and services and like everyone else we also wanted an extra source of income," said Greylock FCU Senior Vice President Marketing and Administration John Bissel. "We want to continue to keep our core services free and maintain our active role in the community so we needed more income."
Bissel says most of the initial research of an agency was done in-house since the credit union was well embedded with the local business community. To close the deal Greylock worked with a consultant and narrowed its acquisition options focusing on a straightforward ownership, a good reputation and solid employee base, and a favorable geographic location.
"We had an insurance agency partnership before that didn't work out because they had multiple ownership in their group and those five didn't agree on how to market nor did they ultimately share the same dedication to member service as Greylock," said Bissel. "That is what started us thinking about controlling our own agency and was one of the big motivators in moving forward and we were able to close the deal in less than a year." Bissel says the agency has exceeded expectations without a big marketing push other than the initial announcement. He credits the growth to a strong sales culture. A large amount of new business was generated from Greylock FCU branches.
"Within the first year we grew more than 25% in the second year by over 15% and that was straight from our core credit union referrals," said Bissel. "It has worked out so well we are now looking to our next acquisition to expand our operations in our north and south locations."
He adds that a pent up demand among members also helped boost the agency. "Our members were frustrated with how it was handled before so when we added our own agency which provided excellent service and quality insurance that more often offered competitive pricing, our members were so pleased we delivered," said Bissel. "We have a unique market here for example our auto insurance is highly regulated in pricing so we had to find ways to offer savings to our members."
Bissel says it is a good business for credit unions to be in.
"Just don't try to run your agency like a credit union. Don't expect to make money in the first two years and set realistic expectations," said Bissel. "You have to have insurance experts to help run the agency. We were lucky we had a person on staff who has over 29 years of experience in insurance that has helped us grow the agency and it has made all the difference."
Bissel says plans are underway to focus more on advertising this year. --firstname.lastname@example.org