CUs Use SEG Outreach to Help Them Ride Out Tough Economy
Given the challenges faced during this tough economy, some credit unions are taking another look at their community outreach efforts.
At Pasadena Federal Credit Union, an emphasis on reaching out to existing select employee groups has proven successful, said John Schaefer, director of marketing/business development at the $134 million credit union.
Since he joined PFCU a little more than two years ago, Schaefer has worked hard to reestablish connections with the credit union's 100 community SEGs and open a dialogue about their needs.
"A lot of our existing SEGs are nonprofit, so there's an opportunity there. And one of the main goals of the initial meetings were to reintroduce ourselves to the human resources contact and find out how we can help and serve them better moving forward," Schaefer said. "It's not about pushing yourself as yet another salesperson but really talking to them to get a better idea of who they are and exploring together how we can help."
He said the strategy of building real personal connections has helped reinforce the credit union's position as a true community partner.
"We emphasize how as a credit union we share similar goals and we understand where they are coming from," Schaefer said. "We focus on the individual, stressing that membership is an added benefit for businesses to offer employees free of charge."
In keeping with PFCU's role as a community partner, Schaefer said he also tries to help local small businesses connect with one another as a way to form a synergy among the SEGs the credit union serves.
For example, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, PFCU sponsored a roller-skating party in Glendale at the Moonlight Rollerway skating rink owned by Dominic Cangelosi, a PFCU member and credit union advocate for more than three decades. The party also benefited one of the credit union's SEGs: Rosemary Children's Services, a charity that helps more than 400 abused, abandoned and neglected children each year. The Pasadena and San Gabriel chambers of commerce helped promote the event.
"Many movies and television shows, including a recent episode of "Glee," have filmed at [Cangelosi's] historic rink, so to us it was the perfect venue to raise money for an essential organization like Rosemary Children's Services," Schaefer said.
As PFCU is the credit union for Art Center College of Design, he added that it also made sense to commission one of its alumni to paint a 90-square-foot mural to commemorate the credit union's milestone anniversary. Inspired by the theme of "Building Pasadena," the mural will feature iconic images from around the city and depict individuals who represent PFCU members. The mural is slated to be installed in the PFCU lobby on Sept. 23 and unveiled by the mayor of Pasadena and Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who is also a longtime member. In addition, artwork by Art Center students will be on display.
"It's going to be a great way to wave the flag for PFCU and highlight our community involvement," Schaefer said. "We can't just talk about the credit union difference-we have to show it."
Over at Technology Credit Union in San Jose, Calif., community outreach has been redefined in the seven months since President/CEO Barbara Kamm came onboard.
With a belief in strengthening the credit union's ties and relationships with local Silicon Valley businesses, Kamm has focused on education, job creation and basic needs as a way to help maintain the local quality of life and economic stability. To demonstrate that belief, she created the position of vice president of community relations and tapped Kim Vu, assistant vice president of private banking, to step into the new role. Kamm said the more than $1.3 billion credit union has taken steps to identify community outreach opportunities that align with its core values.
"It's in our DNA as a credit union to be very involved in the community and support the people who are doing good work," Kamm said. "The difference between what we're doing now, as opposed to what we've done in the past, is that we now have a dedicated person who will focus our outreach in the areas that make the most sense for Tech CU as a company and for the technology community in the Bay Area, identifying community outreach areas that Tech CU can get involved in where there is synergy with our values and the values of our member companies."
Tech CU's plans include concentrating on supporting nonprofit organizations and programs that focus on education in the areas of innovation, science, technology, engineering and math. To that end, Tech CU has searched for opportunities that will have a big impact, from working with Intel Math to help teachers improve their instruction through having a better understanding of and foundation in mathematics, to joining forces with Singularity University, a local graduate-level organization supported by NASA that aims to nurture future leaders who will address the world's challenges.
"If Silicon Valley is to maintain its competitive advantage in the global market, students have to be better educated and prepared to succeed in college and compete in the workforce and it starts with the teachers," Vu said. "We want to help them become the leaders of tomorrow and the work being done at Singularity University is phenomenal. "They look for students and executives at the top of their industry and during a 10-week summer program they challenge them with the big question of, 'How do we change the world and impact the most people to improve society?' It's interdisciplinary work being done to create new solutions and interestingly two of the ideas out of last summer's program got venture capital support."
With the health and vitality of the economy in the Bay Area and California directly connected to job creation and growth, Tech CU also supports such programs and has become more involved in advocating for public policies that create high tech jobs in the region-especially those that contribute to the new, clean energy economy.
"We want to create an ecosystem of support and advisers for entrepreneurs, not just loans," Kamm said. "Even if they can't qualify for a member business loan they do need advice, counseling and to network with people who know what to do. That's what we try to do in our community-develop member-company relationships that create a credit union network connection to small businesses to come work with us."