SEATTLE -- The fire sale of Seattle's Washington Mutual Savings Bank capped a year-long surge of new member business to the state's credit unions, according to the Washington Credit Union League.
In a press announcement accompanying a safety and soundness campaign that hit all 125 of the state's newspapers, the league said new membership tripled in the first half of 2008 to 62,782 and increased even more once the Sept. 25 sale of the nation's largest thrift to JPMorgan Chase was made official.
League officials said they were well aware of the imminent sale of WaMu, given its large losses in mortgage-backed securities and loans and so the takeover was not considered a complete surprise.
The Washington trade group said it refrained in its formal press material from naming WaMu as the source of increased business at CUs but did stress CU stability and NCUSIF insurance in a massive public relations campaign targeted to Washington State media last week.
"We made individual contact with banking and consumer reporters and others at every newspaper last week and this week we'll be working on the TV and radio," said David Bennett, director of communications for the league.
With the blast, WCUL joined a national CUNA-orchestrated campaign to put out a strong pro-CU message during the financial meltdown.
Staff Attitude Shows Up
In the Quality of Service
MADISON, Wis. -- A recent Filene Research Institute report, "Employee Perceptions of Credit Unions: Implications for Member Profitability," finds that staffers' perceptions are key to credit union service.
Researched by anthropologists John B. Gatewood of Lehigh University and John W. Low of Culture Analysis Group, the study hypothesizes that credit union success is critically dependent upon the credit union's employees and, in turn, is likely to be strongly colored by employee perceptions of credit unions. Employee attitudes influence their behavior at work and their interactions with members, and play a significant role in employees' abilities to recruit new members through word of mouth.
After interviewing employees at credit unions of various sizes across the United States, Gatewood and Lowe reported the following six key research findings: Employees can't neatly compartmentalize how a credit union fits into society; employees agree on the "credit union idea" but have a very difficult time explaining that idea to external parties; employees can identify the parts of the credit union puzzle, but they don't see how it all fits together; "trusted" is the highest rated characteristic attributed to credit unions; employees younger than 30 and those with higher levels of educational are less committed to credit unions; and there is significant variance across institutions in employee commitment and in the consensus of what a credit union represents.
"Many firms, especially in the financial services industry, present hollow claims on differentiation," said Filene Chief Research Officer George Hofheimer. "But credit unions are truly different. This study indicates that differentiating factors map very well to what many people view as the ideal financial institution. In short, credit unions have a unique story to tell, and like most really good stories, it takes time to get the pitch right."
Callahan Revamps Web
WASHINGTON -- Callahan and Associates has recognized its clients' need for speed and revamped its Web site, www.creditunions.com.
In a move to better facilitate clients' information and data gathering needs, the newly streamlined, redesigned site now also features the CUTV Network, to showcase innovation and fresh opportunities to help raise performance levels and foster staff expertise.
The new CUTV Network, offers 14 customized channels that comprise over 200 Webinars on topics ranging from successful strategies, benchmarking tactics and valuable insights to networking opportunities. The in-depth inventory of Webinar presentation slides and downloaded recordings is available within 24 hours of airing and is supplemented by an all-inclusive library of streamlined Webinar clips that can be accessed for everything from staff briefings and training for new hires and/or recently promoted managers.
"Creditunions.com end-users run a wide gamut from credit union CEOs to line managers and service providers, so we had to ensure that the new site meets their varied needs. Now a user can quickly drill down to find the precise information they need. And when you put CUTV in the mix, users have basically created their own virtual consultant, on call 24/7," said Callahan Chief Operating Officer Alix Patterson.
As for the overall Web site, the redesign includes enhanced navigation to ensure easy retrieval of new and past articles on key credit union topics. In addition, each article also has a relevant number of tags to help narrow the search and quickly yield the most relevant articles. It also provides timely new graphs, rotated daily, to provide a quick snapshot of the latest trends in the industry. In addition, informative video clips embedded within some articles provide more insights on the latest initiatives that credit unions are taking and offer best practices from the perspective of Callahan analysts, credit union executives and other industry stakeholders.
CUNA Mutual Offers Reassurance on Strength
MADISON, Wis. -- Thanks in part to revenue growth and capital reserves, CUNA Mutual said its operations are strong and it will weather the current financial markets' storm.
The company said its exposure to AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch is less than 0.1% of its general account. That percentage excludes its investments in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae agency instruments. CUNA Mutual also reported $8.3 billion in cash and investments in its general account at the end of 2007; it now contains more than $800 million of government and agency securities "as well as a very significant cash position."
"Despite the current economy, CUNA Mutual's operating performance remains strong in 2008--results that follow a three-year period of growing revenues by 25%, doubling our profitability, and increasing benefits to customers by more than $500 million," the company said on its Web site (www.cunamutual.com).
CUNA Mutual said it has seen a reduction in capital due to economic events however, the company came into "this challenging time with a very strong, excess capital position and we are taking steps to weather this economic crisis."
"We anticipate the difficult economy to continue throughout 2008 and well into 2009. Despite the current economic challenges, we foresee solid operating revenue growth for CUNA Mutual for the remainder of the year and our overall operating outlook is strong," the company said.