OKLAHOMA CITY – Never let it be said that Tinker FCU doesn'tencourage its members from the get go to take an active stance onbehalf of credit unions. Go to the $1.3-billion CU's Web site –www.tinkerfcuu.org click on `membership', and you'll find a link toinformation on the Credit Union Defense Fund. From the time theyfirst join TFCU, members are encouraged to sign up forDeduct-A-Buck. Their $1 a month goes to the Oklahoma Credit UnionPolitical Action Committee and the Credit Union Legislative ActionCouncil. “It's one thing for staff of a credit union to voice theiropinions about the ability of credit unions to serve members. It'simportant for that to come from members, and to come from them on aday-to-day basis, not just when there's a major issue at hand,”says Tinker President/CEO Michael Kloiber. It's Tinker's emphasison getting members involved in credit union issues and making themfeel critically tied to the future of the credit union that hashelped propel Tinker in to the billionaire circle. “One thing we'retrying to do is not fall behind the times like we did in the 80sand 90s when we had to fend off attacks from the banking groups.We're trying to convince our members how necessary it is to alwaysbe aware state and national political leaders are there and we needto make our voices heard,” Tinker's president says. Kloiber's beenwith Tinker for 15 years, half of which time he's spent as thecredit union's president and CEO. A graduate of University ofCentral Oklahoma in Edmond with a degree in elementary education,Kloiber taught school for a couple of years before switchingcareer. He earned an MBA, also from University of Central Oklahoma,and worked for 10 years in banking before moving into creditunions. Kloiber realizes that Tinker's size gives it a certainamount of leverage that smaller credit unions don't enjoy. Heacknowledges that large credit unions enjoy an economy of scalethat allows them to afford more branches and a full array ofproducts and services. He adds that another advantage of a largermembership base is the ability to attract volunteers. “That'sprobably going to be one of the greater challenges for small creditunions. I can understand how difficult it would be if ourmembership were a tenth the size it is,” he says. Still, Kloibersees a future for both large and small credit unions. Many peoplemay feel more comfortable dealing with a smaller institution. As acredit union grows, it can become more and more difficult todeliver individual attention. TFCU traces its history back to 1946,when some civilian employees at what was then Tinker Field foundedwhat has blossomed into the largest credit union in Oklahoma. Inaddition to serving Tinker Air Force Base, TFCU has added selectemployee groups representing employees of more than 300 areacompanies. The credit union has been expanding its field ofmembership for the last quarter century, trying to position itselfto survive if the base were closed. Even so, base personnel andtheir families still comprise at least 30 to 35% of TFCU'smembership. Has the war in Iraq and continued military activitythere affected the credit union? “You have personnel deployed allover the Middle East, especially the type of units we have here,”Kloiber answers. “We have the AWACS unit and we also have a Navywing which is back and forth patrolling across the ocean. A lot ofreservists have also left out of this area. “Of course we work withthe families that are still here trying to make ends meet. We workwith the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act. Our goal is to make it aseasy for them as possible.” That's in addition to the usualchallenges posed by increasingly intense competition. Consumershere can now choose from even more credit unions. State-charteredcredit unions in Oklahoma recently were allowed to operate withcommunity charters, and increasing numbers are being rechartered totake advantage of that change, Kloiber points out. Vying with banksfor members is nothing new, but today firms such as brokeragecompanies and insurance companies are expanding their menus toinclude what are for them non-traditional financial services. Manyof these competitors target military personnel for products such ascar loans. There are also check cashers and payday lenders thattake advantage of entry-level military ranks. “One of the things weconcentrate on is education and training, especially as newpersonnel come onto the base,” Kloiber says. “We try to make surethey understand the best option is to come to the credit union. Itmay be quick and satisfying to get a payday loan but it's very,very expensive. The same thing with check cashing.” Kloiber reportsTFCU has an excellent relationship with the base. The credit unionhas been given the opportunity to meet with new personnel, bothmilitary and civilian, transferred to Tinker. Many are reassignedto Tinker when bases elsewhere close. “The theme around here isTeam Tinker, because there is the Navy, Air Force and all thecontractors. We're proud to be part of the team,” he states. Ofcourse, there's a flip side to transfers. Just as personnel movein, they may also move out. But Kloiber says Tinker does a good jobof keeping members even as they as relocated throughout the UnitedStates and the world. Technology helps. In addition to offeringonline banking, an automated voice system and other computer-basedservices, TFCU participates in the Shared Service Network. Thatallows members to access branches in 40 states. If you're inOklahoma, the credit union's Mobile Service Center may come to you.The 38-foot motor home offers two ATMS and a Personal AccountTeller machine on the exterior with loan and new account servicesin the interior offices. The main purpose of this branch on wheelsis to provide curbside services to SEGs outside metro OklahomaCity. At the same time, brick and mortar branches won't disappear.“I think there's a comfort feeling to knowing your financialinstitution has a place you can walk in and out of,” Kloiber notes.Let's say someone moves into the Oklahoma City metro area. They'relooking for a financial institution. With all the options, how cana credit union stand out? “It's got to be an overall package withservice, price and delivery,” Kloiber answers. “I think the numberof branches affects that. I think that's one of the biggestchallenges community charters face. If you have just a fewbranches, it's very difficult to serve a large community. “Overall,word of mouth is so important. One person tells another, `I have myfinancial services at Tinker Federal Credit Union because they'vealways treated me well.' I think if you concentrate on your presentmembership you will continue to grow.” It is more difficult todayto develop member loyalty, he continues. You really have to educatethe membership about the value of being one of the owners of acredit union. -

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