MADISON, Wis. – The confusion between CUNA, CUNA Mutual, CUNA Mortgage and CUNA Credit Union in the Madison area is legendary. The local papers often interchange the names and each organization sees the confusion escalate if any of them are holding some kind of event. For example, CUNA CU President/CEO Kim Sponen noted last week that the CU’s member service reps were fielding calls about an Art Festival the CU was holding. Well, it wasn’t the CU at all holding the event, it was CUNA Mutual. CUNA Mutual also has an upcoming blood drive that is spurring more calls to the credit union for blood drive information. CUNA Credit Union may soon help clear up some of this confusion if it succeeds in changing its name to Great Wisconsin Credit Union. The CU has set an April 28th special meeting date for members to vote on the name change. Under Wisconsin law, a state charter needs two-thirds of the members attending to approve the change. Federal-chartered CUs do not need to put a name change to a vote of the membership. “I’m very excited about it. It’s an opportunity to clear up some of the confusion in the marketplace. We’re not an insurance company, not a trade association, not a mortgage company,” said Sponem, referencing the other “CUNA” organizations in Madison. Sponem said the change also reflects CUNA CU’s changing face. The credit union is looking to grow. It’s tripled its branch network in the Madison area over the last three years and is eyeing expansion. There’s always been concern at the CU that potential members believe they have to work at a “CUNA” organization to join the CU, which is inaccurate. Sponem said there are even some members who believe when they join any CU they are joining CUNA CU, confusing CUNA CU with CUNA the trade association. CUNA CU Vice Chairman Sue Racine said the confusion is so deep, some people who apply for jobs at the credit union believe they are applying to work at CUNA Mutual. Racine is also assistant vice president/association services for CUNA Mutual. CUNA CU, founded by credit union pioneer Roy Bergengren, technically has a worldwide charter, so it can certainly branch out. The CU isn’t looking to go worldwide any time soon, but it does want to expand its Southern Wisconsin presence and the name Great Wisconsin CU gives it all kinds of future growth options in Wisconsin. “We’re expanding in Wisconsin and we want the name to bring about an automatic identity for who we are and who we serve,” said Sponem. Sponem has been with the CU for 10 years and said this is the third time she recalls the name change coming up, but it likely goes back even further. The CU recently found some documents from 1987 where a name change was also discussed. CUNA CU hired a naming company to come up with various names. It whittled the list down to 10 and then tried them out on focus groups. The groups included its employees, a cross-section of its membership and a high school marketing class in Madison. To really mix things up, the CU came up with a few “out there” names. One of the most outrageous was Green Frog Credit Union. Green Frog doesn’t have any particular meaning, but would sure get noticed, said Sponem. “What we found was there were a few people in each group that thought the idea of Green Frog would set us apart. But overall we found, especially among high school and college students, that they didn’t want us getting cute with our name. They said if you want to have fun with your name, do it with marketing your product line,” said Sponem. The CU wanted the name to convey a CU that is neighborly, optimistic, forward thinking, strong, trust worthy, friendly and competitive. The CUNA CU name is the only name the CU has ever had and is steeped in tradition, but Sponem said most members seem to welcome the change. “I think generally speaking it’s hard to get used to a company changing its name at first, especially a credit union that has had the same name since founding. Overall our members have been positive.” Sponem said she did talk to the leadership of the other CUNA organization to let them know of the CU’s plans, and they too were supportive. [email protected]

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