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VIENNA, Va. – Navy Federal Credit Union acknowledges that it may be “late to the game” of business services but if word of mouth is any indication, better late than never. Less than two months after the $21 billion credit union softly launched its Navy Federal Small Business Services nearly 100 accounts have opened. Members who own businesses with $1 million or less in assets, including home-based business owners, are the target market, said Jim Salmon, NFSBS business lending special assistant, who is overseeing Navy Federal’s newest venture for the 2.4 million members it serves. So far, NFSBS is offering two business checking accounts, a money market savings account, credit cards, new and used cars, and investment properties and will partner with its CUSO, Navy Federal Financial Group, to offer insurance and investment services. “The measurement of success for this program will be membership retention,” Salmon said. “We’ve got a great mortgage program, credit card operation (and) people have always come to us for car loans. Our intent for business services is to go all out with an encompassing program.” Salmon said the small business is a segment that “has been abused and ignored by our banking brethren,” but more significantly, companies with less than $1 million in assets make up 80% of the market. Discussions to add a business services division began nearly a year ago, Salmon said. Based on a survey distributed last spring, 20% of Navy Federal’s membership said they had business accounts elsewhere and 50% were self-proprietors, with the majority saying they would make the switch if the credit union offered business-related services. Navy Federal also received approval in March to offer SBA loans. In April, the credit union partnered with Newtek Small Business Finance to make Small Business Administration (SBA) loans available. Newtek will provide the loan processing, servicing and liquidation services. Car loans up to $150,000 and credit cards with up to $75,000 limits will also be available. “As we get more comfortable, we may go higher,” Salmon said. Navy Federal has also partnered with Baker Hill, a Carmel, Ind.-based solutions provider to use its LiquidCredit Bank2Business program. The program uses browser-based technology for member business lending applications from inception through document preparation, to boarding and loan servicing using Fair Isaac’s credit scoring system. “It’s a very scalable solution for us,” Salmon said. Logistically, Navy Federal Small Business Services is operating at the credit union’s headquarters here serving members within a 50-mile radius in the Washington DC metropolitan area. A second office may open in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Va. area by this fall or winter, Salmon said. Members will have to establish services at the main office but plans are to eventually allow them to conduct business transactions at all of Navy Federal’s branches. Meanwhile, employees are currently undergoing training to assist and refer members to the small business division and a search is underway to hire an underwriter. “Before we go into a new market, we need to have an understanding of that market,” Salmon. “Rather than a huge rollout of the program, we’re using each market as a pilot.” Salmon said word of mouth, mainly through employees, has been the primary marketing thrust although there are counter signs and plasma screens promoting the new division at Navy Federal’s main branch. The buzz has already extended beyond the United States’ borders. Salmon said they recently received an inquiry from a member in Hawaii about Navy Federal Small Business Services and what it had to offer. “Product penetration is our personal goal,” Salmon said. “We don’t have solid number or deposit goals that we’re trying to hit by a certain time. We want members to have access to all that we have to offer.” [email protected]

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