<p>RALEIGH, N.C. -State Employees Credit Union President/CEO Jim Blaine has a message for all teen members, “Zard is coming!” Kicking off on April 15, Zard is the $7.5 billion credit union’s latest project geared to teens age 13 to 19. “We’ve been working on this for about a year as part of our life stage segmenting. We did Fat Cat for children and it has been wildly successful,” said Blaine. “We want to educate these teens and the best way to approach consumer education is to grab someone at the right point in life, and we’ve built this program to address the teenager’s basic needs.” New to the consumer financial world, the most basic need for any teenager is education. Blaine sees it as an opportunity for the credit union to establish its difference while doing its part to help develop a fully informed young adult who can take an educated approach to determining the best deal. “If you look at how consumers choose products marketing is winning,” said Blaine. “Education is the key to stop those lenders from taking advantage of consumers. Usually sex and finance are taboo for parents. With this program we’ll help get teens started on the right foot financially and leave the other to parents.” In addition to educating teens on such subjects as compound interest and just what surcharging really costs Zard offers basic savings, checking, debit cards, and in some cases a credit card up to $1,000 provided a parent co-signs. When it comes to teens, cars top the list of interests. As part of the Zard program, first-time teen car buyers can take advantage of a basic car loan up to $7,500-with of course a parent as co-signer. “That way teens can afford to pay for any car over five years old, and it is a great way to not only get a teen into a car but provide an affordable introduction to responsibilities such as insurance etc,” said Blaine. With independence as another big teen need Zard members will have their own Web site www.teenzard.org. Currently under construction, once completed the Web site will have a variety of subjects including services such as links for college foundations; tips for college; some calculators for saving and repayment plans; some games; a frequently asked questions community board and an educational area presentation which ends with a quiz. Don’t look for this cutting edge teen club to have some cutesy, furry mascot- it has scales, claws and a tail. “Lizards come in an amazing variety just like teens,” said Blaine. “Our mascot should also appeal to parents who know firsthand if they live with a teen, that like lizards teens love to lie out-in the sun, do nothing-and when in trouble or they need their space they get under rocks.” Since it is impossible to categorize a teen, Blaine says the credit union is just approaching the campaign with a sense of humor. The Consumer Education department is in charge of the program and having lots of fun coming up with promotional ideas from each employee wearing a Zard hat, to encouraging teens to sign up for a Zard account so that they can get their parents out of town for a weekend. Teens that sign up through the end of July will be automatically registered to win a MP3 player for themselves and a vacation getaway for two to Charleston, South Carolina for their parents. According to SECU Senior Vice President of Consumer Education Leigh Brady the lizard is not only exotic looking but makes a great conversation piece. “No-one can look at these hats and these lizards without asking,” said Brady. “And we hope that generates interest. We don’t want to sell to our members but would rather be a trusted advisor and have fun with education.” [email protected]</p>

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