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ORLANDO, Fla.-With the number of consumers using the Internet increasing daily, credit unions cannot afford not to be online. According to CyberBranch President and CEO Warren Marshall, not only is that where consumers are going more and more for business needs, but it is also a great strategy for targeting the most affluent (a.k.a. profitable) consumers. “I think the Internet is a very, very good idea for credit unions,” he told attendees of NAFCU’s Annual Conference & Exhibition. It is no secret that the Internet is a fast-growing and convenient way to conduct business. Internet usage jumped from 40 million users in 1996 to 171 million users in 1999, Marshall said. In August of 2000 alone, 116.5 million Americans used the Internet. Today, 44.4% of Americans are Web surfing with traffic doubling every 100 days. What could be a real boon to credit unions that offer online services is that 77.7% of Internet users make more than $75,000 annually, Marshall said. He told the conference attendees to face the fact that “some members are more equal than other members.” He explained that the situation at many credit unions is 20% of members carry the other 80% in their profitability to the institution. Additionally, the fastest growing group of Internet savvy consumers are those 50 years of age and older. Currently, 29.6% of this group are online and many are sure to hold retirement accounts that could mean profits for a credit union. The largest group of Internet users is those who barely remember life without it, age 10 to 20. This consumer group is among the next new and used car and homebuyers, Marshall emphasized. However, some credit unions, and other institutions, have been skeptical about venturing into the online world, especially after the failure of many dot-coms (recently WingspanBank.com, Bank One Corp.’s Internet arm). But, one only has to look to Dell computers, Marshall advocated, to see that online commerce is thriving. Dell’s online sales total just roughly 30% of all the company’s income. The online future is only getting brighter. According to Marshall, by 2002 approximately 50% of Americans will use the Internet and by 2008, it is estimated that 90% will be online. Not only can credit unions profit from doing additional business online, but they will also save in operational costs. The typical teller transaction costs approximately $1.07, while an Internet transaction costs less than a penny, Marshall pointed out. Not only is this a money saving technique, but will help the already pressed, small credit union staffs. [email protected]

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