ELGIN, Ill. – Veterans of the credit union insurance space, Kevin Shea and Phil Stewart are once again working with CUs, albeit with a product miles apart from insurance – telecommunications. Shea and Stewart have teamed up to form Members Telcom Services, Inc. The firm's first major initiative is partnering with telecommunications firm Z-Tel Technologies, Inc., Tampa, Fla., to provide Z-Tel phone service to credit union members. "What these guys have been able to do is take the infrastructure of the Bell companies, wrap a whole bunch of new software around it and charge a lower price," said Shea, co-founder of Members Telcom. "We want to tie this in with credit union services." Members Telcom wants to partner with credit unions to have them market this product, known as "Z-LineHOME Credit Union Edition," to their members. What does the CU get out of offering its members phone service? There is a revenue opportunity. Credit unions will make a commission on each member signed up. The CU also gets another marketing avenue, which Shea believes could be even more valuable than the revenue. "When you get this service as a consumer and you dial `00′ you get a menu prompt that first offers you the ability to retrieve your voice mail. With this credit union package you can select the second prompt to get instantly transferred to your credit union's telephone system," said Shea, who said members will be reminded of their CU each time they pick up the phone to retrieve voice mail. Of course the option can then be altered to promote a CU product or get a message to members. The main benefit for members, said Shea, is Z-Tel's phone service ranges up to 20% cheaper than other firms. Members Telcom is hoping CUs will market the product in their branches and through other channels. Shea said once a member shows interest all the CU has to do is direct them to a toll-free number which instantly patches them to a Z-tel rep in Tampa for sign-up information. This is a dramatic shift from Shea's long career with CUNA Mutual Group. "Phil was looking for something to do. I was looking for something to do. This was an area where both of us could still use our knowledge of the credit union industry. This has a lot of similarities to offering insurance products to credit union members," said Shea. Shea and Stewart can't re-enter the CU insurance space since they each signed non-compete clauses with CUNA Mutual. Shea signed his after leaving CUNA Mutual Group where he was the chief officer for lending services enterprise. Stewart signed a non-compete with CUNA Mutual after he sold his CU insurance firm, Stewart Associates, to CUNA Mutual in 1999. Now the marketing begins. Shea said Members Telcom was set to unveil the company at CUNA's Annual Meeting, which was cancelled due to the terrorist attacks. The firm's first trade show appearance will likely be at CUNA's GAC in Washington D.C. this coming February. [email protected]

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