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VENTURA, Calif. – In this era of compromised cards and identity theft, live check pre-approval promotions have fallen out of vogue with many credit unions. Don’t tell that to Ventura County Credit Union, which is wrapping up a successful Holiday loan promotion that netted the institution $7.7 million in new loans as of the end of January. On Dec. 15, VCCU mailed live checks to 9,000 pre-approved members in amounts ranging from $15,000 to $25,000, with rates from 9.5% to 11.5% APR, and a 60-month repayment term. In essence, the “holiday loans” were unsecured signature loans. According to VCCU Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Beth Carr, the credit union used existing security measures to reduce the chance of fraud, and limited the promotion to its best borrowers: the top 20%. “There’s always the worry about fraud, but when you have security parameters set up on your system, you can identify whether or not they’re your members. Most credit unions have those kinds of procedures in place, those in-between security processes that are transparent to the member,” Carr said. Carr said she utilized Experian’s customizable pre-approval program, selecting only A+, A and B paper members to receive the promotion. “People get nervous about unsecured debt, so we tweaked our pre-screen to get a real good, solid list that we could feel comfortable with,” she said. So far, 407 members have cashed the checks for a total of $7.7 million in new loans. A follow-up postcard was mailed to members who hadn’t yet taken advantage of the offer, so Carr said she’s waiting until the end of February to run any return on investment figures. The VP said she’s also leaving the door open to piggyback a second pre-approval promotion later this month which focuses on taxes and debt consolidation if the credit union needs more loans. Carr credits much of the success of the promotion to the convenience of live checks. “Our best members are also top prospects for our competitors. To keep these relationships strong, we knew that we needed to give them easy access to credit, but also a good value. The bottom line is, we need to be willing to take some risk to benefit our members,” she said. “When you think about how our best members, those who fit into the category of PFI users, are such avid home banking and Internet users, you simply have to meet that instant gratification need,” Carr added. Carr said the Dec. 15 launch date was later than similar holiday promotions Ventura County has run in the past, and she feared it would have a negative impact on response rates. However, response rates have been better this year than ever before, although Carr cautioned she’s not completely convinced the later launch date was a major factor. VCCU tapped Anaheim-based Aubrey & Associates to develop marketing materials. Carr said Aubrey handles most of their marketing projects, because “they have our branding, personality and philosophy down.” The credit union serves about 200 SEGs and also extends membership to those who work, live, attend school or worship in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. -

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