CHANDLER, Ariz. – The $18 billion market for weddings and bridal registry has huge potential for credit unions, according to participants in a Filene Research Institute study. “Right now we’ve been looking to find a marketable name for a wedding package that would work nationally,” said Geri Dillingham, executive vice president and COO of North Island CU in San Diego and a member of Filene’s i3 Innovation Group of mid-level executives picked to work on new product and service ventures. According to Dillingham, CUs should be able to develop a complete “fulfillment package” of products ranging from loans to savings accounts that would appeal to brides-to-be and newlyweds. Addressing the annual conference of the Arizona Credit Union System here, Mark C. Meyer, Filene director of innovation, said CUs would be a logical source for young couples to “register” by opening savings accounts in which attendees could contribute cash gifts. Later on, said Meyer, the CU relationship with young couples can grow to include home loans, life insurance and credit cards. “Cash we’ve learned is the number one gift that newlyweds want but sometimes asking for cash is tacky,” said Dillingham explaining that CUs could provide a vehicle for wedding attendees to make a contribution to a savings account. She said banks so far have done little with this market with only Wells Fargo offering a limited product. She said the Filene i3 group has been watching the growing Internet application for wedding products as couples put up their own Web pages providing future guests and family a progress update on wedding plans. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a couple of credit unions listed on the bride’s gift registry in addition to Macy’s or Bath and Beyond” asked Dillingham. The “wedding” unit in Filene’s i3 research group, she said, hopes to have some product recommendations ready by September. On that score, Barry Shaner, president of Toledo Area Community Credit Union, Sylvania, Ohio and a member of the Filene group, said “we’re hoping to have a couple credit unions who in the next few months will conduct a pilot” on bridal registry. He declined to identify them but said his Filene group does agree on the need for CUs like his “to reach out to younger couples” considering the industry nationally suffers from having “an aging membership.” He said there are a handful of CUs which currently have products for young couples but the bridal registry idea “would represent an upfront” attempt to bring in new business. Shaner said the Filene group meets weekly through teleconferencing to discuss the progress of survey work and product activity. Beside Shaner and Dillingham, others in the group include: Susan Siegel, senior vice president of marketing and branch operations at Sunmark FCU, Schenectady, N.Y.; James Miles, COO, MidFirst CU, Franklin, Ohio and Mary Ann Hughes, vice president-information services, at CommonWealth One FCU, Alexandria, Va. [email protected]

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