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LAS VEGAS – Credit unions are doing a rather poor job in reaching the youth market as well as failing to create a strong brand image in the public arena, according to two CU executives, one from St. Louis and the other from the West Coast and both well-known on the speaker circuit. Though tradition-minded staff might be turned off, “we need those young people who paint their bodies and poke holes in themselves,” jibed Patrick Adams, executive vice president of St. Louis Community CU in Missouri, referring to the tattoo-hoop ring craze. “When you consider the average age of a credit union member is 40-48 and going up, that’s frightening,” warned Thomas Glatt, executive vice president/COO of Portland Teachers CU, who left a family-run San Juan Capistrano, Calif. CU consulting firm last November to join the Oregon CU. Adams and Glatt, who for years-working independently – have given well-received and entertaining talks to scores of CU groups on timely topics with often serious messages, were the windup speakers Aug. 5 at the National Directors’ Convention which met here for a week with a record crowd of 2,500. “I think it’s a matter of taking some risks and putting out a product line that is priced to reach young people,” said Glatt who chided trade groups for giving “lip service” to the youth market and then “failing to really follow through.” He said his CU has been doing its part in reaching out to young people with favorable rates on car deals and he suggested “the fear factor” has gripped CUs across the U.S. in the lending area failing to come up with creative products. “That first car really frightens us,” said Glatt citing CU trepidation over losses to young borrowers. In a talk laced with humor, Adams said CUs ought to look at the successful branding campaigns of other industries adaptable to CUs. “Join a Credit Union. Got Milk?” he said to audience laughter with a tag line “we “we don’t care what udder” you get services from. “The American Bullies Association” has for too long intimidated CUs, joked Adams referring to the American Bankers Association suggesting CUs should use far more effective and stronger methods need to make clear “who we really are and what we stand for.” The public remains ignorant of the CU mission and so far not much seems to have helped, he said adding the “womb to tomb” approach in serving all of an individual’s financial needs must be pursued. Staff has to be trained on “exactly why we do things-not just go out and sell Visa Cards to every member who walks in the door,” pleaded Adams. Echoing Adams remarks in a speech which followed, Glatt went further in blaming the major trade groups for not doing enough to focus on youth relationships. “We give great lip service but the follow through is terrible,” declared Glatt. He said CUs run the risk of becoming irrelevant among financial institutions since “what we really ought to do is reach down to my five year old grandson instead of like we do now and wait until he becomes 30″ and then goes elsewhere for his financial needs. Glatt also charged that the 78 million CU members touted in speeches before Congress and other lawmakers “are really lies” since duplicate memberships in multiple CUs are omitted from the numbers. “We are in love with that line but it isn’t true,” said Glatt. Citing success stories of Harley Motorcycles and Hallmark cards, Adams emphasized the urgent need to build brand loyalty sorely lacking among CU members. He said effective product pricing is an avenue to help build that loyalty. In his talk, Glatt also suggested “as myth” the notion bandied about in the industry that “banks don’t want credit unions to grow.” The fact is, he said, “banks would love for you to take every one of their unprofitable customers off their hands” and so they are eager to push them to CUs. Glatt said the joint appearance “as a one two punch” before the National Directors meeting was a first for the duo in eight years. Since taking the Portland Teachers job Glatt said he has sharply cut back on industry speeches which “peaked at 100″ when he was with Counter Intelligence Associates-a firm now run by his wife. Adams said he gives an average of 60 speeches a year and had appeared on the NDC program in 2004, also in Las Vegas. Glatt said he receives no fee for his talks “with my expenses paid” by the sponsor, the National Center for Credit Unions, run by a Rockville, Md. publisher and data services firm. [email protected]

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