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HOUSTON – Star Trust Federal Credit Union is hoping that members will share a collective deep breath of fresh air as they step into its new retail full service branch. It has been a busy year for the $56 million credit union since Enron Corporation filed bankruptcy on Dec 2, 2001. Although financially and operationally separate, Enron and what was then Enron Federal Credit Union were viewed as if they shared the same problems and members were literally lining up out the doors to withdraw their money from the credit union. With the growing scandal, the credit union had to distinguish itself fast and that meant expanding the field of membership, a name change (StarTrust FCU) and finding a new location for its only branch, which was on the third floor of the Enron building. StarTrust FCU found a site in downtown Houston that was far enough away from the Enron building that it would be a fresh start but close enough that the former Enron employee members didn’t feel abandoned. So far all the time and effort to relocate seems to be paying off. “The member reaction alone has been worth it,” said STFCU Vice President of Marketing, Stephanie Olszewski. “It has been great; they are just so shocked to see what we came from to where we are now and they tell us it is a refreshing change.” According to Olszewski, the space incorporates all the elements the credit union was looking to convey with its new brand. “Our goal was to have a space that was warm, friendly, modern and high-tech,” said Olszewski. “The whole facility is just unbelievably well laid out. Our tagline says `go beyond banking’ and that is what we did with this branch.” Designed by Atlanta-based IBT, the approximately 1,900 square-foot facility offers a concierge desk to help assess member needs and features a member education area complete with internet kiosk, an ATM and loan servicing section. In addition, all the artwork in the branch is actually advertising with little to no copy designed by the credit union’s graphic design agency. “We didn’t want something that says get a loan today,” said Olszewski. “It is a distinct type of branding almost like `where’s Waldo” with our half rising star. So for example there is an ad with a picture of a girl in the sand and rather than make an angel she is making our star.” According to IBT senior vice president John Nicola, every element from using the same blue in StarTrust FCU’s logo to create areas in the branch, to the mix of hard tan wood and metal has been picked to reinforce the members’ trust. “Where StarTrust has the edge over competitors is by creating this warm setting so that members feel more at ease than at a traditional branch,” said Nicola. “Members go into branches looking to establish a relationship with the credit union so bringing the warmth coupled with proactive member service representatives will go a long way to building trust and that relationship.” It must be working because Olszewski says that since leaving Enron quite a few members walked away but now membership is on an upswing. “I don’t know if it is because of our artwork/ads in the branch or our move to the downtown area or the combination of it all but we are slowly getting back up on our feet,” said Olszewski. [email protected]

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