Prospecting for Business Gold Is Key for Ent Following Mergers
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- When the $2.4 billion Ent completed a merger with US Alliance Credit Union in June, the financial institution set out on a mission to spread its business banking presence in the newly acquired areas.
The merger opened up opportunities for US Alliance's 7,000 members, who are mostly federal employees in the Denver area from agencies such as the U.S. Mint, the Postal Service and the Department of Agriculture.
"Traditionally, we service our existing members and work with those members brought over from the merger," said Gregg Cawlfield, manager of business banking at Ent. "Our goal is to make sure they know about our services and focus on retention. There is also the prospecting piece."
In June, Ent appointed Brian Kayton as a business banker to forge new business relationships as well as serve three of the credit union's service centers, including Buckley Air Force Base. A staffer at Ent for three years, Kayton has served in several capacities and previously gained experience as an assistant vice president and regional branch manager at another Colorado credit union. Following US Alliance's merger, Cawlfield said one of Kayton's roles will be to develop relationships with chambers of commerce and community groups, a key move since US Alliance did not have a business banking representative in place.
"There are a lot of businesses in the area [once served by US Alliance]," Kayton said. "The acquisition of new accounts is what we do, but retention is more important. We share the benefits of a credit union over a bank."
Radio advertisements heard in the Denver market tout the credit union difference. However, Ent wants to build on that by emphasizing what the credit union has to offer to businesses. Since October 2007, Ent has added to its business banking program with new hires and services. Last year, it launched corporate online banking and an unsecured business line of credit with limits ranging from $3,500 to $50,000. The credit union also hired a commercial insurance agent for its Ent Insurance Group. In all, there are roughly 50 business service experts on board.
Cawlfield said the debut of remote deposit a couple months ago will be an important advantage for markets Ent merges into. Even with 21 locations in Colorado Springs, so far, members have raved about the new convenience, he said.
"We have great locations in downtown Denver [but] for other businesses, they may not be convenient," he said. "We received a lot of feedback from members [on offering remote deposit]."
Another key offering for entry into new territories is Ent's ACH expansion. Two years ago, a relaunch of the business banking program brought all services, including bill payment in house, Cawlfield said. Health benefits to small businesses are also available. Business deposits have grown to $47 million since 2006, he added. Business auto loans were scheduled to roll out in August.
It goes without saying that being the new kid on the block following a merger means getting the word out and offering the most bang for the buck, said James Moore, senior vice president of corporate communication at Ent. The credit union has a significant share of the market in Pike's Peak at 22%, he pointed out. About 40% of households here are members of Ent.
"This is a real shoe leather kind of deal," Moore said on courting small businesses. "In the Denver market, we really don't have brand recognition in north Denver. One thing we're seeing in [the] Firestone [service center] is that it is a growing area for new businesses to get their start."
Ent knows the competition in Denver and surrounding areas is thick but having the right people in place that understand the lingo to help businesses prosper has been a cornerstone, Cawlfield explained.
"It's our approach with any business-we want to become their partner. We don't want to sell them the products of the day. We prefer to have a comprehensive suite of services that will allow us to be competitive in the marketplace."