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WASHINGTON – Some credit unions managed to navigate around the historically slow membership growth that plagued 2004. According to Alix Patterson, vice president, marketing and communications for Callahan & Associates, Inc., there are four key factors that can drive membership growth. Based on research the firm has gathered, several common themes have emerged: having focus; exuding excitement about growth strategies; networking; and “over deliver.” “Know what your credit union does best and do not try to be everything to everyone,” Patterson advised on the `focus’ factor. “Whether it’s your executive team, the business development staff or your front line tellers, passion for the credit union ideal and excitement behind your specific strategy are necessary components of a member growth strategy.” Patterson said networking is a key component of any SEG-based credit union’s membership growth strategy. “The only way to effectively network is to convey the passion and excitement about credit union membership to your potential partners,” he said. Having the vision to “over deliver” is a common theme among credit unions successful at growing their membership, Patterson said. “It starts with the first visit to the potential sponsor company and continues throughout the relationship,” he explained. Callahan did case studies on $951 million BCU, formerly Baxter Credit Union in Vernon Hills, Ill. and $702 million HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union on how they have respectively boosted their memberships. Both of these credit unions have not chosen community charters but are focusing on developing employee-based membership, Patterson noted. BCU has focused on serving employees of very large companies, specifically Fortune 100s, recently added two new sponsor companies, Cardinal Healthcare and Boston Scientific, and are “throwing the net” to all corners of these organizations, Patterson said. BCU’s planning team sends the message throughout the organization that their focus is on employee-based membership for large companies. “Officers at BCU cultivate relationships with current and former Baxter employees,” Patterson said. “As these contacts continue their careers at other companies, they have proven to be successful at opening doors and ultimately to signing companies up as new SEGs for BCU.” BCU is also facing a potential new membership base of more than 110,000 employees with the addition of the two new SEGs. “In order to deliver what they promised to these new sponsor companies, BCU developed a list of what it would not do this year including signing up other new SEGs in order to deliver on their promise of being the best financial service provider to Cardinal Healthcare and Boston Scientific,” Patterson said. HawaiiUSA has more than 2,220 SEGs and many of them are sole proprietorships. Due to the high cost of living in Hawaii, many residents operate businesses out of their homes in addition to their “day jobs,” Patterson said. The need to keep these business accounts separate from their personal ones has proven to be a growth opportunity for HawaiiUSA. Much of the excitement about bringing in new members at HawaiiUSA is tied directly to the front line staff and to the business development officers, “who are ready to go whenever they are needed, whether it’s at six in the morning or seven at night,” said Scott Kaulukukui, senior vice president of communications. With networking, HawaiiUSA’s focus on smaller SEGs drives them to participate in local networking organizations, like the chamber of commerce, Patterson said. In its quest to “over deliver,” the credit union maintains front office morale and a focus on a “sales and service” culture, which have been a successful component of not only serving their new members but on converting these members into ambassadors for the credit union, Patterson said. -

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