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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – What Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union Assistant Vice President of Marketing Keith Fernandez didn’t know about credit unions he has made up for with his marketing savvy. “I wasn’t a member and I hadn’t even heard of the credit union,” said Fernandez. “In fact the day of the interview I even went into the wrong building at first and I remember when I was finally sitting down with CEO Bob Teachworth telling him that this had to be the most inconveniently located financial institution in the world. I’m glad I found the right building because it has been such a thrill.” For the past five years Fernandez has been doing what he can to better expose the state’s third largest credit union to members. “What I enjoy most is that the credit union is not afraid to try things and find new ways to do things and that keeps it exciting,” said Fernandez. “Our biggest challenge is that we’re not as well known in the communities we serve as we’d like to be and we are working on getting our name out there – letting people know who we are and increasing awareness of the credit union.” To that end Denali Alaskan FCU is not only moving into a new 32,000 square-foot headquarters in October but plans also include adding two or three more branches. The credit union has also diversified its base of operations by adding an insurance agency and mortgage company in the last two years. In addition, Fernandez and his marketing team of three hope a major branding campaign to be launched this fall will give the $289 million credit union a huge boost. In the works since last year the branding campaign includes more than just advertising- internal training for staffers is a big component. “Sometimes we look at each other and wonder why we are doing it all at once but that is just how it all fell together and if you don’t start then you’ll never get going,” said Fernandez. “We have to be aggressive and ask for the business and that holds true for any credit union. There are some people in the credit union field that think credit unions as a whole are the same financial institutions they were 20-30 years ago; that is out the window. We have to ask for the business and we can’t be afraid to hear `no.’ ” Fernandez says what is most challenging as a marketer is just getting people to understand what marketing is and does. “ Those that don’t know may have this view of us that we are sitting around coloring with crayons and just putting ads in the paper,” said Fernandez. “Some credit unions don’t realize that those are just aspects of member communications and special events. Research is part of what we do to help them get more cards or more members and even potential members. It is a lot of work to get people to understand what marketing can do and how it can help credit unions.” While serious and intense about what he does, having fun is what keeps Fernandez going. “If I don’t have fun doing what I do then it is time to find something else to do,” said Fernandez. That philosophy helped Fernandez determine marketing was for him. While enrolled in the Journalism program at the University of Missouri, Fernandez heard a Public Relations Professor speak and he was so interesting Fernandez says he just wanted to find out more and hasn’t looked back since. After graduation Fernandez returned to Hawaii but the job prospects were not what he was looking for. “I always tell people that I take an odd pride in being born and raised in two places not considered the `states’. Hawaii while it was a beautiful, idyllic place to grow up, it just isn’t easy to make a living and I didn’t want to work twice as much just to say I live there,” said Fernandez. “That just isn’t living to me. So Alaska worked out great for us.” He started his career in the 1980s at a small PR firm in Anchorage then jumped at the chance to work at the Alaska Convention/Visitors Bureau. After about 12 years there he left to help a friend launch a video production company. According to Fernandez, Hawaii and Alaska share more similarities than differences- a large indigenous population, tourism-based economy, slower pace of life, separate from the mainland U.S., and generally friendly people. Just don’t look for Fernandez in the great outdoors. An atypical Alaskan, his hobbies center around indoor activities such as reading a good book, listening to music, cooking and basically spending as much time as possible with his family. [email protected]

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