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ST. LOUIS – Stan Moeckli, CEO of the $81 million Electro Savings Credit Union faced a problem with his credit card program. Although about 23% of the credit union’s card portfolio had been flat or even declining slightly in value, it still made a profit and, like a growing number of credit union CEOs, Moeckli was loathe to sell it. “It was still making us some pretty good dollars,” said Moeckli of the portfolio which was valued at $5.4 million at the end of June with almost 3,500 accounts, “so I really didn’t want to sell it. But I realized that if we were going to grow it we were going to have to learn how to manage it differently.” So even though he had various offers to evaluate the portfolio with an eye toward selling it, Moeckli and his board decided they wanted to get a really independent look at it and make a series of decisions after that. And like a growing number of executives, Moeckli didn’t want to go to his processor, PSCU, for help because he expected their opinion would be biased toward keeping it and he didn’t want to go to a card broker because he feared their analysis would be biased toward selling it. Instead he wound up going to Ondine Irving, an independent card consultant who was able to give him an independent view of how his card portfolio was performing and what it would take to give it a tune-up. Irving, whose background includes work with Lending Solutions founder Rex Johnson and card processing giant Certegy, says that her efforts are focused on the credit union’s card program alone. “I am not out to sell credit unions anything or to convince them to sell,” she said. “My only motive is to help CUs succeed with their card programs.” Irving’s analysis showed a program which was fundamentally sound but which needed some incentives to help members bring their CU cards to the top of their wallet as well as some changes to how the credit union managed the nuts and bolts of the program. Moeckli put CURewards, a rewards program offered by PSCU, onto both his credit and debit card programs which enable his members to build rewards whenever they use their cards and increases their sense of commitment to the credit union. “Roughly 26% of our cardholders pay their balances in full each month and 74% carry a balance so we make money from the finance charges and have been able to help drive usage with the CURewards,” Moeckli said, adding that the credit card program, properly managed, is a real way to build connections with members and cross sell other CU products. Michael Williamson, vice president of lending for the $196 million UMassFive FCU, headquartered in Hadley, Massachusetts, came to UMassFive from a career in banking in which he had seen what a well-run card program could do and be. The problem was UMassFive didn’t have a well-run program. “There really hadn’t been anyone whose primary job had been the card program so it had more or less existed for years,” Williamson said. “When I came on board I said here is something that I can do something about to help make it better for the credit union – and I didn’t mean just to sell it.” On the surface the card program had good and bad aspects, despite being only 14% penetrated into the credit union’s membership, the portfolio was nevertheless valued at approaching $7 million in June of this year. But over the past three years it had lost millions and Williamson definitely wanted to increase the credit union card’s appeal among members. Preliminary research and working with Irving confirmed his instincts, the current Classic, Gold and student card program needed to be replaced with a primarily Platinum program and the credit union didn’t need to sell the portfolio to do it. But how to upgrade the portfolio? UMassFive processes its cards with Certegy, the processing giant which has announced an agreement to merge with Fidelity National Financial, a leading provider of core processing services and Williamson speculated on whether the merger had distracted Certegy. “It seems clear to me that they didn’t need our business,” Williamson said. Maybe it’s coming from a banking background, but when I call for help I expect to get called back. Maybe that merger has preoccupied Certegy but I have stopped calling.” Williamson said that he is still committed to keeping the portfolio and upgrading it to a primarily Platinum program, but he has begun looking at different processors who could help make that happen. For Carol Wagner, the CEO of the $48 million Community Schools Credit Union, the light bulb about her portfolio went on when she had agreed to let a card brokerage firm evaluate the portfolio with an eye to selling it. Weeks passed and when finally Wagner called up to see what happened to the analysis, she had been told that her portfolio had been hard to evaluate because the CU didn’t charge enough fees. “It was when they started telling us about this fee and that fee that we could charge that I really understood that we had a very member-friendly card and I started asking myself why we would want to sell it,” she said. As of June 2005 the 3,000 -card portfolio had a value of $3.6 million but remained only with a Classic and Gold card. Like Williamson, Wagner at first tried Certegy for help and then wound up with Irving who validated her desire to upgrade the entire portfolio and who was able to make targeted management suggestions, such as moving the management of the card program away from being a part-time job for “the last teller in the line” and making it a more professional concern of an employee dedicated to growing it. Also like Williamson, Wagner said she is committed to keeping the portfolio but not to remaining with Certegy. “From their perspective, I am doing the right thing,” Wagner said, “I am trying to keep the portfolio. But I need someone who can help me set realistic goals and to help us decide what strategy to adopt to get us there.” For its part, Robert Bream, senior vice president with Certegy, noted that the card processing giant serves thousands of credit unions and added that “every occasion where we don’t provide the service we want to provide is personally embarrassing.” He also pointed out that in surveys conducted by Certegy, by Card Services for Credit Unions, the association of credit unions that process with Certegy, and by third-party firms, Certegy ranks very high with CUs in satisfaction. Certegy remains committed to providing strong and responsive customer service and hopes it gets a chance to work with UMassFive and Community Schools to address their concerns, he added. 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