NEW YORK – It looks like credit unions will have bragging rights for at least another year. Once again credit unions outpaced all other financials in satisfaction levels according to the annual American Banker/Gallup Consumer Survey. The 2001 survey found that consumers in general are happier with their primary financial institutions then they were last year. The survey found 63% of people were “very satisfied” with their PFI, up from 58% a year ago. Credit unions led the way, with 75% of respondents who use their CU as their PFI saying they were very satisfied, down from 79% last year. The story of this year’s survey is the jump thrifts made in satisfaction levels. Just 51% of thrift PFI customers said they were very satisfied last year – that number jumped to 68% in the 2001 survey, putting them a mere seven percentage points behind CUs. Banks brought up the rear with 58% of their PFI customers saying they were very satisfied, up from 53% last year. Thrift leaders credited the jump in satisfaction levels to moving away from being just mortgage and passbook account providers, to more full-service financials emphasizing a sales culture. “I thought the thrift stats were interesting. Their charter has been improved so to speak or worked over, so they have more flexibility and options. One of the things we’re trying to do with Renaissance is give more flexibility and options to credit unions, while continuing the structure,” said Pat Keefe, vice president of communications for CUNA. Credit unions that have converted to thrifts often point to more friendly regulations and expanded powers as reasons for moving to the thrift charter. “I think maybe thrifts are starting to emulate what credit unions are doing, focusing more on service and trying to differentiate themselves from banks,” said Jay Morris, vice president of communications for NAFCU. “I’m not alarmed by the fluctuations. I know we went down a little bit, but overall we’re doing quite well. I think we are a role model for thrifts and banks.” Credit unions also scored the best in service improvements. Forty-percent of CU members reported service improvements, with just 3% reporting deterioration. This was the highest score for credit unions in the last ten years. Last year, 31% of members said their CUs improved service levels. Sixteen percent of bank customers and 22% of thrift customers said service levels have improved. Credit unions were dealt a blow in the trust department. For the first time in six years, banks beat out credit unions on the subject of trust. Thirty-five percent of bank customers who also use a CU said they trust the bank more, compared to 27% who said they trust the CU more. The much politicized privacy issue was a hot-button for consumers. About 23% of respondents felt that their bank had violated their privacy at some point in time. Overall, 62% of respondents were concerned that their PFI was going to release personal financial information to other firms without their permission. The survey also included a number of intriguing technology findings, including credit union members using bill pay more than customers of other financials. Approximately 15% of CU members said they pay bills online, compared to just 9% for bank customers, and 8% for thrifts. Wireless banking, which has taken flight in the CU industry this year, is not something the average consumer is looking for. While 61% of respondents reported owning or using a cell phone or PDA, 78% of them said they were not interested in doing transactions online. Only 22% were interested in wireless banking. Account aggregation, another online service gaining popularity in CU land, was found to be of interest to younger consumers, but still not a sought after service overall. Some 25% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 said they’d be interested in aggregation. In the 45 to 54 and the 55 to 64 age groups, 17% of respondents said they were interested in aggregation. Just 4% of those 65 and older had an interest in this service. Online banking is on the rise. Approximately 22% of respondents with PCs in their homes said they engaged in online banking transactions, up from 18% last year. [email protected]

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