The Vermont clash over the “B” word – as in “bank” or “banking” – widened Wednesday as CUNA, two state leagues and a New Jersey credit union weighed in.
As one offshoot from the legal fray which is currently embroiling the $600 million Vermont State Employees Credit Union of Montpelier in a threatened cease-and-desist order, CUNA and the South Carolina Credit Union League suggested that copyright protection remains a key defense for at least one national branding campaign, “Every Day Is Bank Transfer Day.”
- UPDATE, Oct. 8, 2012, Vermont Credit Union, Regulator Settle 'B' Word Dispute
In a statement issued with approval by Steve Fowler, president/CEO of the South Carolina league, the trade group argued that at least on the narrow issue of “Every Day Is Bank Transfer Day” marketing, “trademark protection of the phrase for use by any credit union nationwide could help Vermont credit unions fill the void.”
That might be the case should the Vermont regulator, Steven Kimbell, commissioner and head of the Department of Financial Regulation, side with the banking lobby and bar VSECU or other state-chartered credit unions in Vermont from using the terms “bank” or “banking” in their marketing.
A formal C&D hearing conducted by Kimbrell could come late this month.
It was unclear how many, if any, Vermont credit unions have adopted the “Every Day Is Bank Transfer Day” brand which was trademarked in November 2011 and later taken over by CUNA in a deal put together by the $1.3 billion South Carolina Federal Credit Union of North Charleston.
Leaders of the South Carolina credit union have been advocating for months that the industry needs “a national rallying cry” to promote its message as an alternative to banks and have maintained the Vermont case is one that requires their input to protect the brand.
South Carolina Federal attorneys have contacted the commissioner’s office regarding a formal request or appeal to retain “Every Day Is Bank Transfer Day” in Vermont once the C&D proceedings get under way.
Meanwhile, the president/CEO of the New Jersey Credit Union League, Paul Gentile, said his league supports its Vermont peers. He also praised NCUA Board Member Michael Fryzel for an informal offer “to help” in confronting the C&D order.
Fryzel’s comments were contained in a Credit Union Times Letter to the Editor in which he criticized the attack on bank language and wrote, “I am from NCUA and we can help.”
In a member bulletin this week citing the “ridiculous” Vermont crackdown on a commonplace term, Gentile said his league maintains a successful co-op campaign under the banner, “Banking You Can Trust.”
“Banking instantly tells consumer what is that credit unions do,” said Gentile. “We’re certainly not banks but we offer banking services and have been doing so for 100 years.”
One New Jersey credit union, the $145 million XCEL FCU of Bloomfield, is a subscriber to “Every Day” and also lauded Fryzel for “helping us out in what we consider a bold statement.”
Thomas Quigley, the credit union’s director of marketing, said, “We are in full support of what is going on in Vermont” and on that score a group of “Every Day” users are planning to meet online in the next few days to discuss strategy.
“It’s a great idea that we all cooperate on this,” said Quigley. In the meantime XCEL just added the “Every Day” tagline to its social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, he said.