Kasasa Bids to Go Nationwide
Kasasa is the name of the suite of products and services that BankVue has made available to credit unions and community banks to help them regain market share from larger national and regional banks. The collection includes high-interest, fee-free checking accounts with debit cards, high-interest savings accounts and a number of different loyalty programs.
It is a model that Krajicek explains as akin to credit unions issuing differently branded credit cards.
“In much the same way as credit unions offer their members credit cards carrying a Visa or MasterCard branded credit card,” Krajicek explained, “we want them to offer Kasasa branded checking accounts and other products.”
Krajicek said BancVue struck upon the idea for Kasasa when it became clear that while both credit unions and community banks had a strong reputation for caring for their members and customers, they didn’t necessarily have a reputation as the source of strong and innovative products and services. In addition, at the time, rewards checking was the hot new financial product, but everyone had a reward checking offering. Community banks and credit unions needed something they could offer which was easily distinguishable from what everyone else was offering. Kasasa was it.
“You hear people all the time say they hate the name,” said Steve Pollman, CEO of the 17,000 member $120 million asset Magnolia Federal Credit Union in Jackson, Miss. “But you know, they’re talking about it, and it sticks in their minds.”
Pollman explained the credit union had been about to launch a rewards checking product with BancVue about three years ago but held off to wait for the Kasasa product. Now, roughly 3200 of the credit union’s 8,000 checking accounts are Kasasa accounts, he said, and most of the those are the Kasasa Cash accounts, the free checking accounts that carry the highest interest rates. He explained that those accounts were the ones most popular with members.
Pollman added that for almost two years Magnolia was the only financial institution in its market to offer Kasasa and that he often had to explain the name, but recently two other credit unions and a community bank started offering Kasasa accounts or announced they plan to do so in the coming year.
This reflects locally the growth that Krajicek said the brand has had nationwide. Kasasa branded accounts are now in 130 institutions located in 39 states, and Krajicek said that roughly half the 130 were credit unions and half were community banks. In addition, the branded accounts have earned $56 million in noninterest income for their financial institution partners and paid account holders $60 million in interest and rewards, including refunding $4.9 million in ATM fees.
Paul Peterson, chief financial officer at Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union, a 12,000-member $146 million credit union headquartered in Biddeford, Maine, said Kasasa offered his credit unions just the tools it needed.
Four years ago, Ocean Communities signed on with BancVue for rewards checking and then stayed with the firm as it moved its checking product to Kasasa. Peterson explained the credit union had grown too reliant on certificates of deposit for funds and needed to broaden its product base.
“We hadn’t planned on it, but our mix of products had meant that CDs accounted for 54% of our deposits when we started with Kasasa, and now they are about 26%,” Peterson said.
He explained that the Kasasa accounts were been hugely successful and that the credit union had 8,300 Kasasa checking accounts and 6,300 of the high-interest savings accounts.
Krajicek said BancVue would take experiences like the ones from members of Ocean Communities and Magnolia to consumers at large in 20 communities around the country. On Aug. 15 and 16, partner financial institutions will be at area gas stations, giving drivers free tanks of gas to illustrate how Kasasa accounts reward their depositors. “The goal is to do something big and unique that will draw national attention and get more people asking what Kasasa is,” Krajecik said.