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SYDNEY, Australia – Australian banks are having their perception problems while credit unions down under constantly get excellent ratings for service, community involvement and general caring. Nothing shows this more than the very successful Gateway Credit Union. What makes Gateway unusual is that it started out to serve bank employees. Back in 1955, 17 staff members of Commonwealth Bank, one of the largest banks in Australia, felt a credit union was needed to provide some financial services for the staff. It was originally named Commonwealth Bank Officers Association. Almost 50 years later, the 55,000 members throughout the country still choose the credit union for services over banks. A recent survey showed that over 90% would recommend Gateway to a family member or work colleague. In fact, 50% already had. Gateway CU Marketing Director Shawn Griffiths said that he thinks it has to do with the CU’s commitment to service, and the fact that the credit union checks regularly to make sure that their members agree. “We see ourselves as retaining the traditional very high standard of service, and we survey regularly in a number of ways to keep tabs on this. Our satisfaction rating in the latest survey was 90% (reasonably or very happy) which compares very well against any other financial institution.” Gateway’s membership is spread out throughout the continent, and most members deal with the CU either over the phone or electronically. Griffiths says that about half are in the local area, but that does not mean the physical headquarters is geographically easy to access. Five full-time people man the phones answering about 80% of the inquiries directly, but the entire 54 person staff is expected to pick up the phone if necessary. Gateway’s online banking service, launched last November has already proved popular with more and more members registering each week. The service was upgraded last month. Gateway changed its name in 1998. According to Griffiths, “The previous name of CBOA (Commonwealth Bank Officers Association) Credit Union needed to be updated to reflect the larger bond including family members, plus Reserve Bank officers and their family members, and the fact that Union membership is not a requirement to join the Credit Union.” Reserve Bank staff was also using the credit union. In Australia there is no longer any common bond requirement for CU membership, but credit unions still service related market segments based on the old common bonds. Bank fees are a major issue in Australia, with consumers complaining they are being charged on everything. Gateway’s business model of only one branch with business being conducted by mail, telephone and online, is very effective from a service and cost control perspective, and allows us to price competitively, Griffiths says. “Members have come to expect that we offer excellent service at a very good price. We have no credit union fees on loans or transactions. As most of our members work for or have worked for a bank, we are conscious of the need to provide excellent service without aggressive selling.” Gateway has over Aus$400 (US203) million in assets, money not deposited in the banks where most of the members work. [email protected]

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