Credit Unions Click While CFPB, CUNA Clunk
Watching the CFPB bungle its way to agency maturity is as painful to watch as allowing a young adult to mature by learning from his or her mistakes.
The bureau's most recent gaffe, in which it assumed credit unions had marketing deals with Big Ten universities and called them out publicly without even verifying its allegations, smacks of immaturity.
Sadly, these growing pains come at the expense of credit unions that suffered reputation damage. Based on the CFPB's response, it seems like the bureau lacks awareness of its own power and influence. The CFPB should be commended for quickly removing the credit unions from the offending blog post once it realized its mistake; however, more should be done.
The CFPB needs to revamp the way it communicates with stakeholders and the public. While I can appreciate the federal government could use some modernization, the CFPB's hipster approach to serious topics is inappropriate. For example, a consumer-facing blog is not a fitting channel for announcing proposed rules or extended comment periods. If an official unveils as much during a speech, it should be followed up with a press release.
Implementation of Dodd-Frank deserves more fanfare than the “maybe you’ll see it, maybe you won't” approach the CFPB has taken in its communications.
Speaking of communication, how about CUNA's 100 million member campaign? I love the way CUNA has executed this idea, particularly in social media. Members posting selfies with a credit union hashtag is a brilliant way to put a face on the movement. It's been fun seeing those faces pop up in my social media feeds.
However, the promotion of that 100 million number was a bad idea.
That number represents share accounts, not the number of Americans who are members of credit unions. While CUNA has been careful to use the term memberships in its releases and materials, it's also claimed the number “represents one in three Americans.”
That's simply not true.
Because some people are members of more than one credit union, they’re counted twice.
CUNA's John Magill countered that because some memberships are joint accounts, they supplant those counted twice. I don't think it's a wash, but it's a good point.
I can appreciate the temptation to use the impressive number to flex credit unions’ grassroots power on Capitol Hill, and I hate to throw a wet blanket on what is otherwise a really cool promotion.
I also probably bust CUNA's chops more than the trade deserves.
However, using the 100 million figure in a misleading way could have negative consequences. Perhaps CUNA has already forgotten when it claimed Bank Transfer Day produced 650,000 new credit union members, only to later reduce that number to a humiliating 210,000.
On a positive note, I’ve been impressed with some of the credit union promotions we’ve covered in CU Times recently. It's not easy to execute a promotion that benefits both members and the credit union. Loan growth is great for revenue and growth goals, but if it comes at the expense of members’ household budgets and credit profiles, it misses the people helping people mark.
The $350 million Neighborhood Credit Union in Dallas has sunk nearly $100,000 this year into cash prizes that reward those who open savings accounts. While new deposits are the last thing a credit union balance sheet manager wants, especially while loan-to-share ratios are still relatively low, promoting good savings habits to members is a great thing. Neighborhood has found a way to leverage brand recognition from the promotion into membership and loan growth, too.
I was also impressed with the $135 million Landings Credit Union's micro loan campaign, which not only has steered the Phoenix-area credit union's members away from payday loans and high-interest credit cards for the past three summers, it has also generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in new loans. Delinquency and default rates have been low, and yields relatively high. And, some members who applied for the loans were steered into other products.
Kudos to these credit unions and others that find a way to benefit both members and their cooperative.
Heather Anderson is executive editor of CU Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.