These are serious times in the financial services world, yet we all could use a little levity. So to honor the members you serve everyday, and the recent April Fool's Day, I've come up with a top 10 list of things your members
don't want to hear. Some serious, some not so much, but
No. 10: There will be no more lollipops or dog treats at the drive-thru. A sad reality at many credit unions. This is a small nicety that members really appreciate. But, if it's a question of placating screaming children in the backseat while out running errands, like depositing a check at the credit union, or getting an extra 25 basis points off a home equity loan, members will choose the latter. Most of the time anyway.
No. 9: You're not Mr. Smith. He was just in here...A case of mistaken identity is funny in old episodes of "Three's Company" but not in your credit union where trust is everything. Now is a good time to ensure employee training is up to snuff, including on issues like detecting identity theft and fraud. While trust is lacking in nearly all other sectors of the financial services community, credit unions need to maintain their members' trust. Another good idea is transaction tracking software that can catch what the human eye might not detect.
No 8: We're merging to become a larger institution with less local control. Despite all the economies of scale and expanded services, the American public is always a bit suspicious of mergers. The banks do it all the time, as do telecom companies, retail chains and others, and nothing turns out for the better on the consumer side. Many credit unions will be looking anew at the possibility of a merger, and first and foremost, it's important to pick the right merger partner. If a merger appears the only way for continued optimum service, be sure your members know that-not just because you say so but show them through superior member service and full transparency.
No. 7: We're tax-exempt, but we want access to taxpayer money; we promise not to touch it. I understand credit unions are hurting right now, but once you let the TARP horse out of the barn, saddle up for a bumpy ride (despite the friend you might have in Treasury Secretary Geithner, who also apparently does not pay taxes). The mainstream media will run with it, probably at the urging of the American Bankers Association and others who'd like to see credit unions taxed. The general public doesn't care whether TARP comes in the form of a loan or would only serve as a backstop-the term, which has crept into the vernacular, is tainted.
No. 6: Say hello to my little friend-our current CD rate. Unfortunately, that may be all you can or want to offer these days. During the current flight to safety credit unions are experiencing and the NCUSIF premiums, credit unions may have trouble keeping their capital up, and thus...
No. 5: We don't want your stinking money. Runs counter to what the public thinks about financial institutions, but it's true that having more money flow in can be tricky to manage. Some low-income designated credit unions may even have to give back some of the nonmember deposits they lobbied for-a tough pill to swallow.
No. 4: Elevator music in your lobby. This goes for the hold button on your phone system as well. Nothing says stale like an instrumental version of "Copacabana." The up and coming Gen X and Y members you want to attract are much too forward thinking for that. And, as much as I hate to admit it to my boomer parents, their generation might be too cool for that too. Credit union executives bob their heads up and down at the conference jokes about the elderly members that come to the branch to "visit their money," but credit union branches are enablers that cater to them.
No. 3: We've been taken over by our regulators. In fact, any sort of regulatory action that is public could push already jittery members over the edge, and they'll leave. Not only should your books be in order, but also your BSA filings, loan paperwork and the like. At the same time, the agency should balance transparency with the idea that public actions can create the self-fulfilling prophecy of a credit union going down the drain.
No. 2: Loan? What's that? While lending executives are understandably jittery in the current economic environment with foreclosures and job losses abound, credit unions must continue lending. Credit unions exist to serve their members. If they're not lending, and only offering paltry savings (refer to No. 6), then what purpose are they serving?
And the No. 1 thing credit union members don't want to hear: Meet the new head of our regulatory agency, Ed Yingling.
--Comments? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org