Brought to you by:


Learn More about My Virtual StrongBox - Click Here


Our Blog Roll

The Financial Brand
Snarketing 2.0
The Filene Blogs
CreditUnions.com
CU Water Cooler
CU Insight
The Members Group

Resources

Meet the Moderator
Keep It Clean
About Guest Authors

30 posts categorized "Finance"

October 29, 2013

Today's Not An Anniversary You Really Want to Celebrate.

ShareThis

by Ron Daly

Torrential rain. Winds up to 115 mph. An estimated $68 billion in damages. Portions of the eastern seaboard still reeling.

It's hard to believe a year has already come and gone since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. It's not an anniversary you really want to celebrate but it's an important one to mark. It's a prime example of how credit unions are supposed to be rooted in their communities and how, as a community unto itself, credit unions reach out and help one another.

CUs help members

In the aftermath of the storm, stories came pouring in from New Jersey- and New York-area credit unions re-opening and powering through to help members. Some offered overdraft forgiveness, some offered low-rate loans for repairs; a brave and thoughtful few opened up their branches to those displaced by the storm, giving them a warm place to rest, recharge their portable electronics and get their finances in order for the displacement and for the recovery.

If there's a better example of "the credit union difference" than these community-based institutions offering the kindness and care that members need in a time of crisis, what might it be? Because this is the clearest indication to me of what makes credit unions special — a degree of true empathy. It's an empathy that applies to more than money; it applies to the human condition.

CUs help one another

In the wake of the destruction came the cleanup effort. Some issues were tackled quickly and with the kind of focus and calm needed to keep operations on the rails. Some issues have taken quite a long time to address, and some still go unresolved.

One good example of CUs lending themselves a hand? CUaid.coop, which sprang into action collecting donations from credit unions across the nation. The money got passed along to those credit unions that needed it the most. We started the rebuilding process almost immediately after the destruction took place. How many other industries get money going from company to company that quickly? How many other industries bother?

CUs could always do more

The Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that financial services is the least trusted industry worldwide. What can we do to counteract the skepticism and reticence in members and turn the "trust equation" back in our favor?

Stories like the ones above are a good starting place. Showing members that credit unions really do care about their safety and security goes a long way in building our credibility. But how do you really drive that home?

  1. Be Visible - Before, During, and After — If your service area is under threat, you need to be in communication with members throughout the process. When will branches close? Where should they go with concerns or questions? What should they do if they return home to extensive damage or, worse yet, outright destruction? While you're at it, reach out to disaster planning departments in your city or town and ask how you can contribute, volunteer and improve the conditions of those who get displaced or sheltered.

  2. Make Sure Issues are Well Documented — Did an ATM get destroyed in a tornado or flooded or burned up in a fire? Let members know. Did a branch need extensive repairs? Let members know. Do members that frequent one particular branch or area of service need aid and could that aid be provided by members in other locations? Let members know. Don't skirt the issue, don't "dummy up" - play straight, deal fair, do good.

    Recently,  the University of Michigan Health System encouraged doctors to admit to mistakes and bad calls. Surprisingly, the number malpractice suits went down. Why? Because people prefer a company, or a provider, that doesn't try to cover things up or fudge the facts. They want answers and clear communication. Give it to them.

  3.  Give Members the Tools They Need — Do your members know everything they need to know about direct deposit? If they don't, they might find themselves wanting when payday comes on the heels of a hurricane. Municipal CU learned that the hard way during Sandy and shared their insights. During a weather event, people might be lacking the resources they take for granted - mail stops being a priority, phone lines go down, the home computer might be done for due to electrical surges or fire or flood damage.

    But the chances are good that the members leaving their homes aren't leaving without a mobile device in-hand.

    Give members the tools they need most with your mobile offering. Check balances? That's a gimme. Transfer funds? Simple enough. Find branches and ATMs? Those tools are getting better all the time. Get copies of insurance policies, deeds, medical histories and wills? It's possible right this minute. If you're not offering these essential services, where is your operations budget going, exactly?

We hope that credit unions never have to deal with another "Hurricane Sandy". Unfortunately, we know they will. Here's hoping that they'll keep giving aid and comfort to the members that need it most. Here's hoping they'll keep looking out for each other and lending a hand in the spirit of cooperation and community building. Here's hoping that, when the crucial moment hits and it's time to be there for your members, you'll have given them all the information, attention, tools and time they need to get back on their feet. Here's hoping we can build more trust among our members and use that trust to turn them into lifelong members.

Here's hoping.

October 09, 2013

Stamps for $1? Sure, I'm In.

ShareThis

by Ron Daly

What can you really buy for a dollar these days?

I did an informal survey (which is to say, I looked at the prices of a few things I buy from day to day), and you'd be surprised how far a dollar goes...or doesn't go.

I can buy: 

  • A can of soda, or
  • A trip down the express lanes from my home to my office, or
  • A copy of the paper, or
  • An older song on iTunes (the newer ones are more than a buck), or
  • Something from the dollar menu at McDonald's, assuming I can scrounge up a dime for the taxes.

There aren't a lot of things that cost one thin dollar. There are even fewer things that cost under a dollar. Everything's "99¢", the biggest double-whammy ever pulled in advertising. "Hey, it's pennies a day!" Yes, 99 of them.

I rarely suggest that things that are cheaper than a dollar should cost a dollar, but do you want to know one thing I think is worth a buck? A postage stamp.

Think about it. What should it cost to send a letter or a card or even a small package all the way across the country, or around the corner? If you wanted to send that stuff privately (via UPS or FedEx), it would cost more than a dollar. The Post Office does a good job of moving thousands of millions of letters and bills and papers and packages all over the country. But they're hurting and they've lost quite a bit of money in the past few years (all well documented here). They want to increase stamp prices again, to $0.49, a move that has some businesses and "concerned citizens" up in arms. "Outrageous!" they cry. "Stamps need to be affordable!" 

Don't argue that to Rick Newman. He says stamps should cost $1 each. His reasoning:

So hiking the price of a stamp to $1 seems like a straightforward way to align the agency’s costs with its expenses and save Congress the trouble of turning out a few members every now and then to listen to the Postal Service’s familiar tale of woe. The Postal Service says a mere three-cent hike in the cost of a stamp will raise $2 billion per year, so going all the way up to a buck ought to raise many billions more, even accounting for the decline in mail volume that's been occurring, plus the dropoff in sales that usually comes with higher prices. All told, those extra billions ought to more than cover the huge annual losses now expected.

If there’s concern about fixed-income seniors or other customers who might not be able to afford a dollar for every letter they mail, Congress could make postage costs tax deductible for heavy mailers below a certain income threshold, which would let the USPS off the hook and make the whole thing Congress's problem.

Postage increases fixing income troubles? Less mail? Blaming Congress? I'm in!

A dollar's not a lot of money, sadly. It doesn't buy a lot. But going back to my original question: how much would you pay for a person to hand-deliver a letter to your home? A dollar's a great value, honestly. And when it comes to serious mailers, one of two things will happen: 

  1. People who relied on the mail will start to move toward electronic payment and delivery methods, which is good for the environment and for business.
  2. The people who insist on sending paper mail (and especially those pesky junk mailers) will pay through the nose to keep it going.

What do you think? Would you pay $1 to mail a letter? Let us know about it in the comment section.

 

September 12, 2013

Introvert Media - What "Private" Social Networks Tell Us About the Future of Online Sharing

ShareThis

by Ron Daly

It used to be that social media was all anyone talked about in business. "How do you use it? How can you grow an audience? Who should we hire to make it happen?"

With social media came a slew of new issues: people sharing photographs of their credit cards on Twitter (that account still exists, but the heck if I'M going to link to it); people sharing account information of every kind with newly-formed social phishing accounts; employees "over-sharing" or, in some cases, taking pictures of members' feet. And then, there's the marketing component. If there's a new medium out there, there must be some way to work in ads and direct sales/customer support, right? 

I don't know if that's true with the offspring of social media - introvert media.

Now, I know - there are nuances to what makes an introvert and an extrovert. I've been around a Myers-Briggs test before - I got a B+ (that's a joke, for any uptight psychologists reading this). But if social media is a more ideal environment for extroverts (lots of sharing, big crowds a must, plenty of feedback) then this new wave of private, shut-off social networks has got to be a big blessing for introverts (small crowds, not a lot of hubbub, not "open").

Take Snapchat, for instance. If you've never come across Snapchat before, ask your local teenager about it - they're likely to have it on their smartphone and use it to send pictures of God-knows-what to their friends. The idea behind Snapchat is pretty simple - take a picture, share with a friend, and a few seconds after they open it, the picture is deleted from their phone and from yours. Snapchat's programmers swear they can't see the pictures and that any attempt to screen-grab shared pictures alerts the photographer that the recipient tried to save the image. The entire point of Snapchat, according to their website, is to "share a moment". Users take pictures, send them to other users, and the pictures vanish. All that remains - at least according to Snapchat's privacy policy - is the memory.

Celly, a service that sends out mass text messages to registered users and is entirely closed off to advertisers and outsiders, is a favorite of plenty of people who are looking to stay in touch...from school systems to small businesses to protest groups. Similar functionality, but built for very small groups with phone access. The app now processes 550 million texts every month to members in 20,000 different groups. It's got nothing on Twitter's size...but it's not supposed to.

Want a better way to talk to your neighbors without having to...you know, actually talk to them? Nextdoor is Facebook for your block association. Users have to register their home addresses and verify they actually live in the community. It's a social network that's only a few "yards" wide.

I went poking around, trying to find an introvert network for people who want to better manage their finances. But let's face it, if you're managing your household's finances, you only want a few people involved in the discussion. Where does it start? What does a network that facilitates private, productive discussions about money look like? Who gets an invite? 

We've wrestled with this a lot in the creation and further development of My Virtual StrongBox. Forget about storage services that sit on your desktop and gobble up your many files and documents for sharing. My Virtual StrongBox is just for you and keeps your information safe and sound behind your online banking. Sure, you can share things with people (with a link that expires after a certain time/number of clicks), and they can send documents to your box if you need them to. But it's not meant to be a catchall - it's meant to be a private place. With all the movement toward introvert media, we see a growing need (as does Barclays, by the way) to present options that keep communications - and communicators - private.

In a world that's getting used to sharing everything, the real show-stoppers will be those that can keep a secret.

Are you getting into "Introvert Media"? Tell us about it in the comments.

August 22, 2013

Have you ever spent $1,000 on candy?

ShareThis

by Jimmy Marks

[EDITOR'S NOTE -- Ron's off this week so we're throwing it over to Jimmy who's got a few things to say about Candy Crush Saga and the future of mobile games - and mobile money.]

I teased my wife mercilessly. I told her she was just wasting her time. I told her she looked like a crazy person, freaking out over a "game over" the way five-year-olds do when they're all out of Mario's.

She didn't hear a word of it. She was too busy playing Candy Crush Saga, a game where you line up different colored candies and they blow up and you line up other candies and...well, you're basically pattern-picking and trying to empty out rows and rows of brightly-colored candy. I thought it was juvenile. I thought it was stupid. 

Then, I played it. And WOW, is it ever fun

The game struck a nerve with me recently, though, when I started taking note of how often you're encouraged to "buy up". Extra lives are dangled in front of you when you've hit zero and you can always purchase more bonuses that will make the candy exploding a lot easier to manage. I'll admit it - I've dropped $0.99 on a five-pack of lives (to my wife, I offer my most heartfelt apologies). There are times when I can be reasonable and just put the game away until all my lives are replenished and I can play again. And then, there are times when I'm just too human and I cave.

I drew the line yesterday when, after reaching my newest level, I was told I had to complete three side-quests to keep playing. I could do this one of three ways: 

  1. Get on Facebook and bug my friends about it (more on that later...)
  2. Buy my way over to the next level for $1
  3. Play quests. You have to beat three small, short levels in order to move forward. You can only play one level in a 24-hour period. WHAT?!(more on THAT later, too...)

3r01rw

(Above: How I feel when I run out lives in Candy Crush.)

Continue reading "Have you ever spent $1,000 on candy?" »

May 09, 2013

Thinking Like a Software Company: Some Thoughts on Mobile, eWallets and Where We're Going

ShareThis

 by Ron Daly 

I caught a look at this article from BankInnovation about Bank of America's mobile users. Recently, BofA Senior VP Marc Warshawsky disclosed that the number of mobile logins to their electronic banking services outnumbered the "online" logins (that is, from a personal computer) for the first time. Apparently, BofA customers can't get enough of the megabank's mobile apps. Warshawsky had a few words for how to manage mobile as smartphone penetration increases.

From the article:

How should banks approach mobile? “Think like a software company,” Warshawsky said. But he added a word of caution to developers: “Not everything is the right thing to do for customers just because you can do it.”

A sharp observation. But I wonder what he means by "think like a software company", especially when software companies aren't really "companies" these days - some are just a handful of developers, or even one developer, working remotely to make an app. Hard for a company as large as BofA to tell other large institutions that the key to success is thinking small and light, don't you think?

To try and expand on this very small soundbite and think it out a bit, I made some notes. Tell me if you agree or not: 

Step 1: Function first, form second, platform third

If I were a developer, I would want to create a product first and foremost. What's the pain I'm trying to salve over with this app? Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, had a single goal in mind: make articles easy to read when you're able to read them. He worked hard to create the code that would strip out all the ads from an article and present the information in a way that was easy on the eyes (Instapaper makes it easy to adjust brightness and font size - great for guys like me who love their iPad and hate having to find their glasses). He then brought that to bear on the iPhone, the Kindle, the computer monitor, the iPad...and now that he's sold a majority stake to BetaWorks, you'll likely see the app on every platform out there. But what makes it worth the time and money? Simple - it does one thing well on the back end and presents it beautifully on the front end, no matter which "front end" you're using.

Step 2: Change is good, and necessary, and (relatively) easy

There's a world of difference between the "software" we were used to in the 90's and early 00's and the "apps" we can't live without today. "Software" was a big, branded box of discs and booklets and download codes. Want to update that software? You need another box and another authenticity code and another set of booklets. And, most likely, you'll wait five years.

"Apps" live in our little icon squares and update every few weeks...maybe every few days. When developers find bugs or want to push updates, it happens quickly and, typically, efficiently. Adobe's taken note of this - their super-expensive and super-sought-after Creative Suite is going subscription, meaning updates and changes will be pushed automatically - no more buying upgrades to CS packages. Don't be afraid to upgrade your mobile offering when the time comes and be sure to focus on bug reports, breaks and user feedback.

Step 3: Find new ways to simplify and specialize

Malauzai, our mobile app partner for our My Virtual StrongBox app, has made a few headlines recently thanks to their common-sense approach to app development. River City FCU has a high number of Spanish-speaking members. The solution? A multi-lingual app that can serve both English- and Spanish-speaking markets effectively. Users complained about having to enter login credentials to check a balance. The solution? An app that will display balances and recent transactions without logging in but requires a full login for transactions. Simple, compliant, effective. 

Our own app's got some smart problem-solving features, too. Some folks don't have scanners and want to make electronic copies of paper documents. Solution? Take a picture with your iPad's camera app and it stores the image in your online safe deposit space. Simple!

Step 4: Always be closing...er, opening, that is.

Warshawsky warns against overwhelming users with too much functionality in an app. While you may not want to jam every possible user action into your mobile app, you should definitely leave yourself open to opportunity. If a member checks in three times a day, how can you be sure they'll be seeing what they "should be" seeing? That is, how can you make certain that when a member's ready to move on a home loan or an auto loan, they think of you first? Better get smart about giving people clear paths to a deeper relationship.



Apps are a way to keep current and bring mobile convenience to members. They are, however, just another mile-marker on the road to mobile dominance in our culture. What happens when that much-discussed "mobile wallet" hits the member's hands? Are you going to be an important player, or an obstacle to progress? How can you be sure you won't be left behind? 

Talk to us about it in the comments.

November 05, 2012

Election Day as a Deadline vs. a Holiday

ShareThis

by Ron Daly 

November 6 is Election Day. We're positive that all of our readers are voting - they're all good citizens who are wise, engaged and informed - let's not focus on that. 

Let's look at the idea of Election Day itself. More and more, American citizens are voting early. According to the United States Elections Project, nearly 30 million americans have voted already. President Obama became the first president to vote early on October 25 of this year. Lines for early voting this weekend were hours long across the nation, especially in "battleground states" Ohio and Florida. 

I'm not going to dig down into politics, but I will say this: early voting is a good thing. Really, it is. 

We raise our children in our homes and in our schools to believe that the power to vote is an important power. Ideally, everyone who can vote will - but we know that doesn't always happen. I've more than once heard the excuse that "the line was too long at my polling place". What a crock! With early voting, you get plenty of time to vote and it's just as good as voting on the day. They'll even give you the sticker and you can wear it a full day (or even week) ahead of time.

It comes back to the idea of removing barriers to entry. Leaving people with fewer and fewer excuses means that if they miss out on the opportunity to vote, it's more likely to be their problem and not the system's problem. 

"Oh, the line's too long!" Well, go a few days early and there will BE no line...or a much shorter line than the line on Tuesday.

"I don't have any idea where I should go!" Google has an easy-to-use form that shows you where your polling place is - just go to Google and type in "vote" in the search bar, then enter your address. That's all it takes.

 

Screen shot 2012-11-05 at 11.54.04 AM
"I don't know if I'm registered to vote!" Virginia has a pretty good lookup system for your voter ID and pertinent information. I'm sure it varies state to state, but look for your state's board of elections website. 

Now, what does any of this have to do with credit unions?

It's up to you to reduce the barriers to entry. How easy is it to become a member at your credit union? How many hoops must a member jump through to get a new debit card when they lose it? What about the loan application process? Some things have to take a certain amount of paperwork and there's not much you can do to make it better, but why not make things easy where you can? 

As I write this, people are talking about the first anniversary of Bank Transfer Day and the 2.2 million new members CUs took in for 2011 (using CUNA's numbers there). Some think it's the best thing that ever happened to CUs, some think it didn't go as well as it could have. 

Why are we celebrating the first anniversary instead of going for a second round? Why don't we have a national deadline for the industry and encourage everyone to move their money every single year? Are we scared it won't work? That it will fail to impress the modern media the way the first one did? That there's not catalyst (like Bank of America's never-imposed $5 fee)? 

Why don't we have a bank transfer day every year, the way we have an election day...but stress to people how easy it is to move their money ahead of "the deadline"? And why don't we make absolutely sure that when we say it's easy to make the switch that it really is easy?

Vote to make things easy for the member. That's a real victory. 

We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. Oh, and take your kids with you when you vote - they're allowed to go in with you and it teaches them a valuable lesson about democracy. 

September 20, 2012

GUEST POST: Innovation Unveiled In The Big Apple

ShareThis

Alix Patterson is the chief operating officer of Callahan & Associates and serves on Callahan’s board of directors. She oversees Callahan’s media division and leads strategic planning sessions for credit unions. 

In this article, which originally ran on CreditUnions.com, Alix shares her thoughts about DigitalMailer's My Virtual StrongBox product - and her thoughts on the only company to present at FinovateFall 2012 that has direct ties to the credit union industry.

___

Could you deliver all the information needed to set your institution apart from its peers in seven minutes or less? Could you trust your services, people, and products to perform in a live demo scenario, with all the movers and shakers of the financial industry looking on?

That was the challenge for presenters at last week’s New York Finovate conference. These individuals braved a judgmental Twittersphere (the caffeine was flowing freely) as well as technical issues at the venue to share their dreams with potential venture capitalists and financial institution partners.

While credit unions from across the country were in attendance, the second day of Finovate brought the only credit union-owned presenter - Virginia-based DigitalMailer - to the stage. There, CEO Ron Daly showcased the company’s latest product innovation, MyVirtual Strong Box. This solution lets consumers store personal records virtually with the financial institutions they already trust, instead of relying on third-parties whose usage and ownership policies could be a future point of contention.

My Virtual StrongBox integrates with a financial institution’s home banking platform, providing the first layer of security for members wary of using "the cloud" to store their personal documents. Then, My Virtual StrongBox encrypts each individual file as it is uploaded, ensuring that information will only be unlocked by the uploading party.

From the financial institution side, My Virtual StrongBox looks to be not only a retention tool but a potential revenue generator as well.

Credit unions can deploy a freemium business model with My Virtual StrongBox. By offering an initial amount of storage and then letting members upgrade for a fee, credit unions can generate new non-interest income.  Both Northwest FCU and DCU launched the product with an initial offering of 100MB free and members have already started to upgrade after hitting their maximum space allotment.

In good Finovate-fashion, Ron and his team also unveiled a brand new iPad version of the service, featuring all the capabilities of the regular offering in portable, intuitive tablet interface. 

DigitalMailer’s presentation provided a great reminder that credit unions and CUSOs are often at the leading edge of financial innovation. With any luck, next year’s conference will feature even more cooperative institutions bringing their big ideas into the limelight.

_________

This article appeared originally on CreditUnions.com and is the intellectual property of CALLAHAN & ASSOCIATES. No part may be reproduced, transmitted, distributed, published, or otherwise com­municated, in printed form or electronically, without the express written permission of CALLAHAN & ASSOCIATES.  

July 10, 2012

They'd Like to Leave, You'd Like to Have Them…Technology's the Bridge

ShareThis

by Ron Daly

When we started this blog, we wanted to call it "CU Soapbox" because it was meant to be a place to stand up and shout about the industry. I've been doing a little "shouting" recently and I thought I'd make it a point to do the same on this blog, because hey, this is the right place, isn't it? 

I've done a little reading about a recent Javelin study about big-bank customers and why they want to make the switch to another FI...but don't. The Financial Brand does a great job of making all this digestible and points out one very important piece of information: 40% of surveyed consumers WON'T LEAVE their big bank because of that bank's online/mobile banking service. Do they want to leave? Yes, of course they do. Who wouldn't? Getting beaten by fees and losing a ton of money that you could hang on to would make anyone want to leave...what keeps them hanging on is the illusion of convenience. 

I say "illusion" because the kind of technology that would bend the bow in credit unions' favor is out there, and it can be had. We could be courting these on-the-fence big bank customers and their billions in collected assets. Why aren't we? 

I believe there are two problems:

  1. We're not promoting the technology/convenience we have and already offer, and
  2. We're not positioning ourselves to bring in the technology that levels the playing field. 

 I wrote two articles recently that sum up my thoughts on the topic. Go read: 

Then, start asking yourself the four major questions that need to be answered, and fast:

Question 1: "Are our current members utilizing the online services we offer, and if not, why?"

The best and easiest research to conduct for yourself is on your own member base. If you have 10,000 members and only 1,000 are using online banking, what could be done to get more people to sign up and start using it? Maybe they already did and it was such an excruciating experience that they swore off of it (I can't imagine that happening, but who knows?). What can you do to make it right?

Question 2: "Is our website (or OLB/mobile app/email newsletter/social media feed) everything it should be?"

Websites need updates and overhauls. It comes with the territory. Marketing hates to hear that they have to write new copy and make new graphics and IT hates the hassle of creating and implementing sweeping changes. I have two words for both: tough toenails. If the site needs a face lift, give it one. If it needs a total reboot, give it one. Make it easy for interested outsiders (and undereducated insiders) to get all the information they need.

Question 3: "What next-generation technology would best suit our members?"

Audience is everything. If you serve a member base that's always on the move (military, air travel industry, etc.), why not include remote deposit capture and a smartphone app? If you serve a large area that's tough to reach on foot, more drive-thru ATMs make sense, don't they? Don't just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks...make an informed decision for the member.

Question 4: "Who's in charge?"

So often, technological advances and purcahses are made without clear goals in mind, or anyone to enforce them. Set expectations and meet them. It's not difficult and it means there's a person driving these endeavors from the inside. 

Final Thought

Did you ever hear the riddle about the frog in the well? 

A frog falls into a well, 20 feet deep. Every morning, he wakes up and hops three feet up the side of the well. Every evening, he falls asleep and slides back two feet. How many days does it take him to get out of the well? 

The answer: Considering he jumps three feet every day and falls two feet each night, it would take him eighteen days to get within three feet of the top. Then, on the nineteenth day, he'd jump three feet and clear the well. So simple it's complicated, right? 

Let's put a CU-spin on this. If a credit union gains ten members a month and loses nine by the end of the month, how long will it take that credit union to compete with Bank of America in terms of sheer numbers? 

The answer: You can't compete with BofA on locations. You can't compete on "number of members vs. number of customers". Their product offering is too abundant, their reach is too wide and too far. Where you can compete is on an emotional level -making a lasting impact on your member. You can also compete on member service. You can also compete on rates. You can even compete on technology...provided you're willing to make it happen. 

Start jumping.

May 30, 2012

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? Four Good Ideas for Getting Locally Known

ShareThis

by Ron Daly 

Album.peopleneighborhood

[image via the Muppet Wiki]

It's time for you to take down that big, scary, Lex Luthor-esque map of the world you have in your office. You know, the one with all the big push-pins in it showing how you're going to take over the world?

If you're reading this, you're a credit union person. Global domination should be off your agenda. Why?

  1. It's a tad bit frightening and we're not necessarily a terrifying bunch.
  2. It's impractical
  3. It's improbable

I've seen credit unions with extra-inclusive fields of membership. I've seen credit unions that have branches in far-flung corners of the globe. But let's be realistic - where are you?

Where Are You? 

It's a big question. For years, we were trying to puff ourselves up to seem big and impressive. Now, we need to recognize that "local" isn't a bad thing - it might be our saving grace. 

Many CUs are repositioning at this moment, trying to remind locals that they have alternatives to their community banks and the big banks. "If you live, work, or worship..." covers a lot of ground, so get out there and show people what you're doing in, and for, that area. 

How? Here are four "good start" ideas: 

Continue reading "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? Four Good Ideas for Getting Locally Known" »

January 11, 2012

Suze Orman gets into the prepaid card game -- and out of the good graces of the CU Industry?

ShareThis

by Ron Daly 

 Remember a while back when Suze Orman went to bat for the NCUA as an "educator"? She wanted to get the word out about how NCUA served the same function for CUs as the FDIC did for banks. A noble goal, and helpful for those who are confused about what all those letters mean on the bottoms of loan promos and direct mail pieces. It raised the question, "Is Suze Orman the right spokesperson for CUs?" 

Well, it's a false dilemma, really. See, Suze Orman wasn't hired to promote CREDIT UNIONS, she was hired to promote NCUA and their capacity as the insurer of cu deposits. But people read "Suze Orman" and "NCUA" and interpreted that as "Credit Union Spokeswoman".

Which is unfortunate, because Suze Orman just decided to set herself up as a prepaid card magnate. Click here to read about it on US News and World Report's website.

I really don't know how to make heads or tails of this. Sure, Suze Orman has a lot of brand equity, specifically with the "underbanked", but to lend that equity to a prepaid card? She's taken the road the Kardashian sisters weren't able to walk a little over a year ago; the only difference being that Orman actually seems to understand how money works and the Kardashians...well, the less said, the better.

An Associated Press story claims that the aim of the card - which Orman has (reportedly) already pumped $1 million of her own money into in development costs -  is to boost the credit scores of users through a deal with TransUnion. This new breed of credit score would reward users who previously paid for things with cash or other prepaid cards, but Business Insider doesn't seem to think so.

According to the PR Newswire press release, the card comes with "Suze Orman's advice and tips on personal finance," (which are delivered...how?) and is also "insured up to $250,000. The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC". So, there's a bank involved somewhere along the line, but a few steps removed...

I guess the question is, has this move soured your opinion of Suze? Some of the choice tweets on the topic I read over yesterday and today: 

Screen shot 2012-01-11 at 12.53.15 PM

Yes, much has been made of the $3 monthly fee, which is actually low compared to cards like the Kardashian Kard. But a card that preaches better finance management while taking out $3/month to "cover costs"? Would "Pre-Card Suze Orman" approve of that? 

Screen shot 2012-01-11 at 4.12.06 PM
Ron Shevlin from the Aite Group always has great links and thoughtful reads on the topics of the day, and he found one by Ron Lieber in the Times. In it, Orman swears she won't be making much money on the card and certainly doesn't want to be making money off of the "99 percent's backs" (her words). She insists that if the rates increase dramatically, she'll kill off the product. But surely there's some reward for her, considering how much she's already invested...what is it?

Screen shot 2012-01-11 at 12.55.22 PM

This reaction is one of the more damning, in my opinion. Ondine Irving has worked with Suze Orman in the past to get the word out about credit union credit card programs and has been a pretty big Suze Orman "stumper". She's not happy with these new developments. I sense she won't be the only one. 

I'm eager to hear your comments on this in the comment section.