When CUNA Mutual Group set out to shake up a program that had grown a bit disjointed, the company went straight to members and credit unions to gather feedback on what changes needed to be made.
In 2009 that the Madison, Wis.-based conglomerate was looking to add more products to its MEMBERConnect program, a marketing division that enables credit unions to sell auto, home, life, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance to their members.
The problem was the program was geared more toward selling insurance products and not on meeting members where they were in their lives, CUNA Mutual said.
After two years of research focused on understanding members’ behaviors and needs, in August the company launched TruStage, a direct-to-consumer business. The brand will initially still include insurance products but will add other offerings as member needs continue to evolve. An annuity is scheduled to debut in the first quarter of 2013.
What makes TruStage different is that this would be CUNA Mutual’s most ambitious direct-to-consumer campaign in its nearly 80-year history, the company said. A $200 million investment in building the brand’s message will include a variety of media including direct mail, email, digital media and print materials for branch marketing to drive consumers to the Web, the call center, or a registered agent.
“We are not in the business of selling insurance,” said Susan Sachatello, senior vice president of TruStage. “We needed to make a change to help engage members. Before, it was less about the brand and more about the product.” After conducting research over an 18-month period, CUNA Mutual discovered that members valued trust, Sachatello said.
“We did the research over time because we wanted to know what members were saying about this space,” Sachatello said. “We heard they were planning for weddings and wanted to plan for generations. We asked ‘what are the types of products and experiences that will help throughout the various stages of their lives.’”
More than 4,000 credit unions are already offering the TruStage brand to their members, according to CUNA Mutual.
There is ample room to reach out to additional members lacking insurance protection. Half of all American households said they need more life insurance and three in 10 households or 35 million are uninsured, according to CUNA Mutual, citing data from the Life Insurance and Market Research Association, a Windsor, Conn.-based organization that serves insurance and financial service companies.
The $364 million Security Credit Union in Flint, Mich., has set the goal of becoming the one-stop shop for financial services for its members, said Christopher Estes, president/CEO. He took the helm in November 2011 but was familiar with MEMBERConnect during his previous nine-year stint at the $1.4 billion Dow Chemical Employees’ Credit Union in Midland, Mich.
“I can tell you based on my experience, the acceptance at Dow was strong,” Estes said. “We saw a lot of members getting the protection they needed and wanted. Because of that, I thought it would be a good fit for Security.”
While Estes doesn’t have hard numbers yet because Security is still in the early stages of adopting TruStage, initial reports show members have started to accept auto, home, life and AD&D insurance.
At the $924 million Commonwealth Credit Union in Frankfort, Ky., TruStage’s new marketing materials relate to the younger demographic target that the cooperative is hoping to hit, said Andrea Hayes, marketing director.
“We are trying to make everything alive and fresh, and TruStage fits in beautifully,” Hayes said.
While the emphasis is on addressing an area of significant need for members, TruStage is also aiming to add to credit unions’ bottom lines through noninterest income, the company said. Today, CUNA Mutual said it contributes approximately $280 million in noninterest income to credit unions annually. Through the TruStage brand, the company said it expects to increase noninterest income for partner credit unions by an additional $30 million to $50 million over the next four years based on current products.
Estes acknowledged that TruStage has not been a huge fee income source for Security and revenue has been modest.
“The noninterest income is a secondary goal to being able to provide members with the products and services they need,” Estes said. “Unlike banks that like to push products, we’re not going to be compelled to try and sell a member something they don’t need.”