Making Member and Community Service an Art for Credit Unions: Editor/Publisher's Column
Concierge banking is usually for the rich and famous at the high-end banks. Alamo Federal Credit Union doesn’t see it that way. They want their members to feel pampered and taken care of. Alamo FCU is going the extra mile to take members beyond satisfaction to elation—literally.
The $44 million credit union in San Antonio started a personal concierge banking program. This small credit union will send a representative out to a member’s office or home or wherever it’s convenient to open accounts or help complete a loan application. Wisely, the concierge will not carry cash, but he or she will be able to assist with switching over current accounts at other financial institutions to Alamo FCU.
CEO Max Villaronga stated in the credit union’s press release, “With Alamo FCU, you don’t wait on us, we wait on you.” That statement is exactly the point; it gets at the crux of credit union philosophy and running a solid business. It represents a true members-lead-the-business attitude and it demonstrates that size is not an excuse for not generating creative solutions. In fact, it should be easier without the bureaucracy a larger credit union might have.
Certainly it represents an investment on the credit union’s part but relative to what a financial institution would have to invest on a fixed asset, such as a branch and security along with everything else, the concierge concept could prove well worth it.
The proof will be in the results but this type of direct investment in the members and growing potential members is the point from which to start.
For many small business owners trying to run their one-person shops or stay-at-home parents with a couple of toddlers, it can be too much of a hassle to make the trek into the credit union. In addition, they may require consultation on various financial matters that the online or mobile venues simply cannot fulfill.
Alamo FCU looked at a service typically reserved for the well-to-do and applied it to its members’ needs. They looked at one model and fit it to the credit union’s vision to create something different.
And that’s exactly what contestants in MAX Credit Union’s 2013 Funky Junk art contest did as well.
The $960 million Alabama credit union partnered with the Montgomery Clean City Commission to bring creativity and recycling to life. More than 75 pieces were entered into the competition from age 5 through adult. MAX CU’s participation supported three objectives by drawing attention to environmental concerns, providing artists a venue to highlight their creativity and, last but not least, bringing awareness of the credit union to potential members.
The lesson? Look at something as simple and chaotic as a pile of garbage and build something beautiful. I couldn’t resist including a picture of one of the winning pieces here. What could your credit union come up with by borrowing from other similar—or not—businesses? A concierge service perhaps.
The concierge service also calls to mind a comment from Mazuma CU CEO Brandon Michaels, a recent CU Times’ Trailblazer 40 Below, which essentially said that happy members don’t make happy employees but happy employees can help make happy members. Focus on serving those who serve the members, as Ed Speed, retired CEO of Texas Dow Employees CU, has said.
The leadership at Securityplus FCU recently honored its employees for reaching certain goals, not with boring plaques, but with lunch served to them. What made the recognition more meaningful was that it was served by CEO Brett Noll dressed as a server in a fine dining restaurant, tux and all, and Marketing AVP Mark Ely in complete chef regalia.
Front-line employees who feel appreciated and recognized will help to make members feel appreciated and recognized. It’s all about perspective and taking someone else’s to make the credit union into something better than it was before.