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Credit Unions Gear Up for Bank Transfer Day

Credit Unions Gear Up for Bank Transfer Day

Halloween has gotten a little scarier for multinational banks as they may be watching their customer base dwindle down only days before Bank Transfer Day rapidly approaches on Saturday.

As excitement mounts and the Bank Transfer Day Facebook "Likes" continue to increase (currently 29,910), credit unions across the country are quietly getting ready for a possible onslaught of new memberships.

Expectations are high, but many credit union executives are hoping to make this day the beginning of a new trend and not a way to make a quick buck.

Michael Terzian, VP/Marketing and Business Development at Partners Federal Credit Union ($1 billion, Anaheim, CA) says, "In terms of production, I think some credit unions will see a nice lift for the month. However, I'd challenge all credit unions, mine included, to not make this a 'flash in the pan.' The banks have given our industry a gift in how they introduced these fees. As an industry, we must resist the temptation to pile on the negativity and instead focus on how credit unions provide true value. This shouldn't be a one-day event but rather a movement that is part of the credit union industry DNA."

Terzian says that he's seen too much negative press and chatter about banks being "bad" and instead would like to see publicity maintain a positive tone about the industry, focused on credit union value as November 5th nears.

"The reaction has been more toward the banks and the negative press surrounding their decisions toward fee assessment. We believe in taking a positive approach, rather than talking about the banks, we've leveraged this public sentiment to highlight our day-in and day-out unmatched value."

He says that while Partners acknowledges the displeasure with the banking philosophy, credit union staff are instead focused on how to help members achieve their goals and dreams through its value proposition.

"We do see quite a bit of negative comments posted regarding the national banks though on our Facebook page," he adds.

Business Is Beginning to Mount

Despite "D-Day" being November 5th, new members aren't waiting for Saturday. Carolyn Jordan, SVP Neighborhood Credit Union ($275 million, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX) said, "Front line staff have told me that 15 people have already switched to our credit union as a direct result of bank fees since the Bank of America announcement was made." Jordan says that the 15 new members were not necessarily former Bank of America customers as other multinational banks have started imposing similar fees.

Terzian adds that his credit union has seen an increase in both memberships and deposits. "For the month, we've seen approximately a 25% lift in deposits and memberships. I would anticipate the same pattern to hold true for November 5th and the following Monday and Tuesday. The smart credit unions though, will leverage this and see a permanent lift if their messaging and value proposition are consistent and valid."

Lisa Otomo, VP/Marketing at Western Federal Credit Union ($1.6 billion, Hawthorne, CA) says business has increased as well. "We have already started to see increased business and are hoping this day will increase credit union business as well, however even if we do not see immediate business this effort absolutely helps increase consumers understanding and awareness that they have an alternative to banks."

How is Your Local Credit Union Getting Ready?

Some credit unions like Partners are adding extra manpower on Saturday and others are promoting special products with a focus on education.

Terzian says that Partners has increased staffing in its call center, extended Saturday hours at several branches as well as increased branch staffing for the day. He adds, "We currently have several deposit specials along with some great credit card offers which we'll feature. While we will be communicating these, more importantly, we're focused on a broader message of the overall Partners promise - Lower Fees, Better Value and Unmatched Service."

Otomo says that in addition to prepping front line staff to handle an increase in new members, Western is running a special promotion.

"We are offering a $100 bonus for any new checking account and $150 bonus for any new vehicle refinanced," she says.

"In addition to this we have our Halloween video on YouTube and we've used Western's Facebook to promote the video and the day. We are also increasing marketing efforts on all of Western's free products from free checking and debit cards to free online banking and bill pay."

She adds, "This is the perfect time to let members and potential members know we still offer the free services they are seeking. We are also marketing directly to our members without checking accounts letting them know of our free checking."

Although Neighborhood isn't running a specific promotion, it's holding a week-long educational event, leading up to Bank Transfer Day. "We're getting ready by holding Bank Transfer Week," Jordan says. "Starting November 1st, we'll have a new theme with each day centered on financial well being."

Themes include Power to the People, Value of a Dollar and Bye, Bye Bank...Hello Freedom.

She says employees have been updated on the importance of stressing the value of membership of what it means to be a member owner versus a regular bank customer. While the credit union is not promoting any specific product, she says front line staff will highlight its premier checking product, Kasasa Checking.

Jordan says that Neighborhood is also planning to re-promote Bank Transfer Day in January once the multinational bank fee is assessed. "After Bank Transfer Day the momentum may die down and the holidays will arrive," she explains. "However, once the fee is assessed in January, we may see a renewed emergence."

In January, Neighborhood is planning a new initiative based on switching from a bank to a credit union. "Above all its about keeping current information in front of the employees so they know how to address questions and are up-to--date with the issues that impact the industry."

Ready to make the switch, find a credit union and move your money today.

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By Gina Ragusa
Published October 31, 2011
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