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LANSING, Mich. – The name over the door reads State Employees Credit Union, but only perhaps one in five members walking in actually works for the state of Michigan. So effective April 3 SECU, will take on a new name, NuUnion Credit Union, and a new slogan, “You’ve earned this kind of service.” President/CEO Steve Winninger notes that with 88,000 members and a community charter covering 28 counties – the largest geographic area of any Michigan credit union – the name the credit union has carried since it was formed 53 years ago no longer reflects the credit union in the year 2006. In November 2004 SECU merged with Ottawa County School Employees Credit Union, adding still another group that didn’t necessarily relate to the “State Employees” designation. There’s also a long list of SEGs. “We have long suspected the name was an obstacle for people who are not state employees and may not realize they could join,” Winninger says. “Our new name is designed to reflect more who we can serve.” An outside consultant was hired and more than 200 names were reviewed. The challenge, Winninger indicates, was to find something that would be creative and a little bit unusual so it would stand out, and also fit a professional financial institution. “I believe the real project focus was not so much the new name as it was to develop a brand for State Employees Credit Union or NuUnion Credit Union. The name is simply a byproduct of that,” Winninger says. “I believe we have taken a credit union that has reached a stage of maturity in the growth cycle and had to reinvent it.” Members just got the news by direct mail. Winninger indicates a few people are a little hesitant or mildly critical, others are taking a wait and see approach. “I believe as people get used to it, and as we begin to develop the brand, everybody will like it even better,” he says. “It’s a lot like getting new clothes. You’re still the same person, but you look and feel a little different. “Our employees, who knew we’ve been at this a long time, felt the new name is exactly right. Employees are quite excited.” Who will be NuUnion’s competitors? The dynamics may change. In the Lansing area, local banks and Michigan State University Federal Credit Union are key players. With $760 million in assets, it would be surprising if SECU hasn’t been thinking about the possibility of joining MSUFCU in the billionaire club. MSUFCU has been a powerful force and “they are branching out in ways they haven’t in years past. They’re a very worthy competitor. They’re a great credit union,” Winninger says. Moving outside Lansing, Lake Michigan Credit Union in Grand Rapids will be a significant rival, as well as credit unions in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, he continues. “I think we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Winninger says. Chris Day, senior vice president of marketing, explains the credit union is holding back on normal marketing until the new name rolls out. But he describes the work the marketing department has been doing to prepare for the new name as “absolutely tremendous.” The new name was unveiled to staff Nov. 11. In the morning, employees said goodbye to the old name by attaching some mementoes to a to a large replica of the SECU logo. In the afternoon, after a break, the new name and logo were rolled out. Then from mid-November to mid-January everyone attended branding workshops. “We had to get emotions out. It’s hard for people to change if they haven’t let go of the old. Then we worked on the brand and what it means. At the same time we were preparing our marketing plan to kick off April 3,” Day says. He indicates member reaction has run a full spectrum from those who are excited about the change and understand what’s involved to those who have a very emotional attachment to the old name. Most calls from members so far have focused on maintenance issues. Will I need new checks? Will the routing number change? Will my plastic still be accepted? Members are reassured there is nothing they have to do. Winninger has some pointers for other credit unions considering a name change. “Think carefully about what you’re doing,” he advises. “Make sure you do due diligence in investigating trademarks. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish.” [email protected]

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