ST. LOUIS-NCUA Board Member Debbie Matz could not rave enough about the participation in her 10th Partnering and Leadership Successes workshop May 2. “People were asking so many questions and good questions,” she said following the workshop. Walk-in traffic brought attendance up to 280 credit union officials, according to her Executive Assistant Steve Bosack. They traveled from 35 states. The subject of the workshop was reaching “New Markets, New Members, and New Business.” Panelist Hubert Hoosman, CEO of Vantage Credit Union located in Bridgeton, Mo., outlined how his credit union reached out to three non-traditional membership segments at once by establishing a presence in underserved East St. Louis, Ill.; the potential membership was comprised of 98% African-Americans, with an average age of 31, and a median household income of $21,000. “Anybody can have a community charter,” Hoosman said. “The challenge is to serve everyone in the community. If you’re going to talk credit union philosophy, live it!” In the last 15 months, the credit union has signed up nearly 1,000 new members and made nearly $4 million in loans in this underserved area with a delinquency rate at that branch of just 0.28%, compared with 0.88% for VCU’s membership at large. The credit union was able to diversify its membership by age and ethnicity while reaching out to an underserved market. Central Star Credit Union (Wichita, Kan.) CEO Lee Williams explained the background work her credit union did before even beginning to market to the Hispanic population. “Without knowing anyone, I went to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and asked what services they needed in their community,” Williams said. CSCU determined it needed to provide financial education, scholarships, and support for Hispanic organizations and events. “Once you develop partnerships, you can understand what’s needed and expected in new markets.” US Federal Credit Union CEO Bill Raker explained that the $591 million credit union in Burnsville, Minn. allows each branch “to customize their products and services, their hours of operation, and their community activities based on the neighborhoods they serve. Each branch has its own `Community Care Committee’ of at least five people who work with community organizations to select their activities. In some branches the whole staff is involved. And to help all our employees volunteer in their communities, we give them up to 16 paid hours a year to do charitable work.” As a result, USFCU has tripled its membership growth to 600 a month with new members speaking 12 different languages. Gaining younger members has actually helped make their parents better members, according to Geraldine Burek, CEO of the $50-million South Division Credit Union in Evergreen Park, Ill. When the credit union recognized children as an underserved segment, the credit union went to work to make children “equal members,” not served with custodial accounts. Students can get their own free checking accounts, ATM/Debit cards, financial education, and credit up to $10,000 for student-run businesses. “We’ve had only one bounced check from a student in two years,” Burek stated, “and some of their counseling rubs off on their parents. I can hardly wait for them to grow up!” Now, 17% of SDCU members are under age 21. -

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