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74 posts categorized "Personal Finance"

May 24, 2012

GUEST POST: Mark Arnold on Becoming Your Members' PFI


Mark Arnold, CCUE, is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner. Mark speaks regularly to audiences around the country on branding, marketing, strategy, leadership, personal growth and generational issues.  With over 20 years experience in the financial services industry, Mark’s breadth of knowledge covers areas such as marketing, business development, human resources, training, and sales. You can follow him on Twitter [@jmarkarnold] or via his blog at




“Credit unions must see themselves as relationship managers. As relationship managers, credit unions better position themselves to become members’ primary financial institution.”

—CUNA E-Scan 

While there is a big rush today to get more new members, one marketing strategy your credit union may want to focus on is getting more from your existing members. Most marketing experts estimate it is eight to ten times easier to expand a relationship with a current member than it is to acquire a new member. Just think about it: what would happen if every one of your members just added an additional product or service per household? Odds are, your net income would skyrocket.

Credit unions must get their members to go beyond just having a savings account and strive to become their members’ primary financial institution. “Financial institutions that make retention one of their top three priorities often enjoy deeper relationships, steadier growth and clearer focus on the core business,” says CUNA’s E-Scan.

According to CUNA, here are the odds of your credit union losing a member based on product usage:

  • 2 to 1 of losing a member if they only have a saving account
  • 10 to 1 of losing a member if they have savings account and a checking account
  • 20 to 1 of losing a member if they have savings account, a checking account and a loan
  • 100 to 1 of losing a member if they have savings account a checking account a loan and any fourth product

Product penetration and member retention are directly linked together.

Two steps your  credit union can take to going beyond just having your members’ savings account are:

1)      Offer relationship pricing

2)      Get sticky products in their hands

Continue reading "GUEST POST: Mark Arnold on Becoming Your Members' PFI" »

February 23, 2012

Remember, Folks - "Target"-ed Marketing Needs Humans


by Ron Daly 

I know you've already read the Forbes article about Target sending baby-related coupons to the teenage girl before her father knew she was pregnant. In case you haven't, here it is. If you're too busy to read it, the short version is this: 

  • Girl buys pregnancy-related products
  • At point of sale, Target identifies those products as products pregnant women buy
  • Target sends girl baby-related coupons
  • Father finds coupons, calls Target, complains
  • Target calls back to smooth things over with the father
  • Father has to apologize to Target  -- daughter actually WAS pregnant

Stunning, right? Not really. 

Marketers have lots of information with which to work and can make offers and decisions about consumers that would surprise the average citizen. Target's got their system down. Amazon does it every time you log in, and weekly in an email ("Customers who bought this item also bought..."). Google's got a history of everything you've searched for as a Google user that they're using to put certain items in front of you. 

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But when you take some of the humanity out of marketing, this is what happens - a girl has to break the news to her father that she's going to need those coupons after all. A major, life-changing event, a big secret, gets dropped on the dining room table and left for all to see. Not because Target had any interest in revealing this girl's pregnancy, but because, somewhere along the way, she went from person to data point. 

How do you avoid things like this? I have to believe, after more than a decade of working on things like this, that preference matters. How you communicate things to people, how you make offers, what they've told you, directly, that they want out of your relationship - that has to matter. 

When a consumer says they don't want offers, don't send them. 

When they unsubscribe, don't email them anymore.

When they refocus the message themselves, don't keep drowning them in information they don't want.

In the history of marketing, we've never had clearer insights, or a greater pool of data from which to draw conclusions. Just remember, emotional intelligence matters, too. 

Marketing needs humans and a little more humanity.

What are your feelings on this story? Let us hear them in the comments section.  




February 16, 2012

The Great Mortgage Refi: Should We?


by Ron Daly 

Remember Superman: The Movie when Superman flew around the world and spun time backwards? That way, he could save Lois Lane, stop Lex Luthor, and whitewash all the unpleasantness that ever happened. I'm not a physicist, but I'm not so sure that would work. And if it did, why stop there? Why not keep flying backwards and stop Lex Luthor before he even hatches his evil scheme? 

I bring it up because someone wants us to fly backwards and undo a disaster. Not a physical or natural disaster, but a financial disaster. The article "Time to consider mass mortgage refinancings" by Allan Sloan in the Washington Post sheds light on a shocking idea: that we could refinance the mortgages of qualified-but-financially-stressed borrowers and actually save ourselves some money and some risk.

From the article:

I’m talking about providing a cheap, streamlined and simple way to refinance fixed-rate mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own about half the nation’s mortgages and are now effectively owned by the federal government. Fannie and Freddie creditors were bailed out in 2008 when Uncle Sam put the firms into conservatorship to avoid their having to file for bankruptcy; as we’ll soon see, those creditors, consisting primarily of big financial institutions, would bear the cost of helping homeowners.

Mass Fannie and Freddie mortgage refis could provide billions of dollars of economic stimulus and support the prices of homes, many Americans’ biggest single asset. All while costing taxpayers nothing.

This isn't Sloan's idea - it was formulated by a group of experts from Columbia University; among them, a former economic advisor to George W. Bush. Their data and their proposal are available for review [click here to see it]. All of this comes around the same time as President Obama's plan for widespread refi, mentioned in his State of the Union 2012 address [click here], which draws much of its power from new taxes on institutions with more than $50 billion in assets. Many praised that plan, but it seems as though Congress won't play ball [click here].

My questions:

  1. Should these massive refis happen? 
  2. Will they happen, and when?
  3. Will it be the saving grace of the embattled housing market? 
  4. How will credit unions be affected? Positively or negatively? Do we get anything out of this? 

If you've got answers, I'd love to read them. Leave us a comment below and let's talk about it. 

January 11, 2012

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


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 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. 


July 13, 2011

The Most Hated Companies in the Country - How Do Members Feel About You?


by Ron Daly 

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released their findings on which companies were the "most hated" last week. Most of the companies on the list aren't a big surprise - you've got your airlines (Delta's number two for super high baggage fees), you've got your big banks (JP Morgan and B of A), you've got satellite/cable companies (Cox, DISH). But there were  a few surprises. 

Coming in at nine and ten were MySpace and Facebook, respectively. Most of the complaints and dissatisfaction were based on privacy issues. I'm sure Groupon will be on next year's list, given their recent spate of bad press. How interesting that social networks are considered "companies". Sure, they have a corporate structure, but I'm always surprised to think of them as anything more than places for people to hang out - it's odd to think that they're actual corporations. It's stranger, still, to think that people are so worried about "privacy" - typically, whatever information you put on Facebook is whatever information Facebook shares with people. If they were showing people your private messages or selling your email address to spammers, that would be something else. 

But the biggest shock was who was numero uno. PEPCO - Potomac Electric, the power company that services the Washington, DC area. They're the most hated company in the country and they only serve one fiftieth of it. When asked about the rating, PEPCO had this to say

"We at Pepco know we have work to do and we're doing it every day," the company said in a statement. "For us to be distracted by this kind of sensationalism would be counterproductive."

Which is a nice way of saying "whatever". 

Which brings me to credit unions. When's the last time you asked your members exactly how they felt about you? Have you done a simple survey, something like a NetPromoter Score evaluation with instant "low feedback" alerts? Do you have a rolling feedback survey set up? DigitalMailer can help with all of these endeavors. It's corny, but it's true - you can't manage what you don't measure. How about your funded loan process, OR loans that were approved by you, but the member turned down your offer? That kind of feedback measurement is perfect for those of you wanting to be the member's primary financial institution!

Measure now with a survey so you can manage the changes you'll have to make to stay competitive.  

Click here to email us and we'll give you $100 off any of our survey services! 

March 28, 2011

What's Taking You So Long? A Sneak Preview "Build a Better Email"


Today, I read an article titled "20 Things Financial Institutions Should Do (But Don’t)". It's the kind of article that seems like it was written just for you. Specifically, because of this part: 

5. Email marketing

It's simply stunning how many financial institutions still don’t utilize email marketing tools. Even today, you still hear bankers say things like, “No, we don’t really collect people’s email addresses.”

It IS stunning. Especially given these statistics from Pew Research*:

  • 94% of online adults use email
  • 62% of online adults use email as part of a typical day
  • Biggest online trend: “Certain key internet activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all ages.” This includes email.
  • 38.5% of internet-supported mobile activity was on email among American mobile users
  • 74% of online adults say email is preferred method of commercial communication.
  • 63% of mobile email users check the account a minimum of once per day. 
  • In 2010 30% of total email time was devoted to commercial emails, compared to 17% in 2005.

When are you going to get into email? More importantly, how are you going to be heard above the din? 

We're here to help with both of those questions. 


Recently,  DigitalMailer issued a whitepaper with helpful tips for email marketers. "Build a Better Email: Tips for Email Marketing Success" is free and available now over at

To give you a taste of the helpful hints in this free whitepaper, we've included a few of them here. Give them a read: 

#2 Divide your messages into numerous discreet programs

Rather than having a single all-or-nothing email list, create four or five sub-topics from which customers can select. Most users will select at least one, so you’ll have a way to reach most online consumers with service-related topics. As shown below, DigitalMailer clients offer up to ten different email topics to choose from.

#9  Don’t botch the FROM line

Although we see it less often now, the biggest email mistake is not including the financial institution’s name in the FROM line. It’s an absolute kiss of death for effectiveness, the equivalent of sending letters without postage. They just won’t get read.

#17 Think of mobile and tablets

How good does your email look on a Blackberry? How about on an iPhone? An iPad? Start looking into the display aspects of smaller, mobile screens. The Internet’s next evolution is, quite literally, in the palm of your hand.

#25 Explain why it was sent

Include a short statement as to why consumers are receiving the message, and how to opt-out or opt-in (for those receiving it from a forward). This typically works best in the footer of the email.

#30 Monitor message delivery

As the battle rages against spam, collateral damage to legitimate opt-in marketers is increasing. To make sure your messages get through, you should have two test accounts at each major ISP. One account set with filtering on, the other with filtering off. Even if your email vendor monitors delivery, we recommend test accounts as an added safeguard

Get the full list by downloading our FREE whitepaper! Click here!


*Editor's Note: The Pew Research Articles mentioned are:

 Pew Research Center, 9/2/10 – Cell Phones and American Adults 

“View From the Digital Inbox” 2011; data = primary research by Merkle and Pew 9/2/10

From Pew Research Center, 12/16/10 – Generations 2010

February 03, 2011

Why would anyone go to a car dealer anymore?


by Ron Daly

Did you hear the news that January new car sales are up 15%.  And I’m happy to report that my family is one of the contributors to the rise in car sales. Yes, after two years of paying off debt and my wife driving a 2003 lease turn-in with over 100K miles, we decided the time was right to get her a new ride.

She researched models, read reviews, created our “price range” and even bravely test drove five cars without the intent of buying any of them. Her secret, telling the car salesmen that she still needed to test drive other models before deciding on the one she wanted. It only became a small white lie when she was down to the last one.

After the research, she found the exact car with all the options she wanted at a local dealer online. We went to the dealer and, after the sticker shock wore off, took the car for a spin.  Now for the fun part… we made an offer on the car. As we patiently sat there playing the haggling game for about and hour and half over price and trade-in, we both decided we should just walk away and left without her dream car.

Now, we are not ones to give up easily. We called the sales guy the next day and restated our offer which was politely rejected. Being credit union folks, we decided we’d take another approach and see if our Northwest FCU car locator service could find us a similar car or get the exact car that we test drove that weekend.

Get this – by noon the CU Manager had secured the exact car she was looking for, for $3,000 less than what we had offered the dealer on Saturday and Sunday. As for the trade-in, the dealer wanted to give $6,300, CarMax offered $7,000 and the CU Car Wholesaler that came on site at NWFCU wrote us a check on the spot for $7,500. (CU savings $3,500 so far). The car was then delivered to the credit union where a salesman picked up the loan check from NWFCU and gave my wife a tour of her new dream car in the CU parking lot. This entire process was FANTASTIC!

So my questions – 1) why would anyone go to a car dealer anymore and 2) if you offer this type of service, how well do you promote it? 3) Or get members to spread the word?

Car dealers scare me and frankly, the only person I like to argue with is my wife. As Northwest FCU  members we were saved money on the purchase and trade-in, got a great rate on the loan and had a hassle free experience. We are thrilled and telling everyone we know about the great service our credit union provided.  Spread the word… we love our credit union!


February 02, 2011

Did you dream about cards replacing cash? You dreamed too small.


by Ron Daly

 Maybe we've aimed a little low...

Granted, most of us didn't see the change coming - "Smartphone? What the heck is a smartphone?!?" we said in disbelief. Sure, we had Blackberries, but the iPhone surfaced and struck a mighty blow to the way we think about our cell phones. Maybe the phone wasn't the important part. Maybe the smart is where the new money is. 

And boy, is there ever money in smartphones. Not only in the app market, mind you, but in the transfer of money between a buyer and a seller. There are mobile banking apps, of course. There are PFM apps. There's even a device from Square that allows a person to swipe a credit card on their phone. That's pretty mind-blowing. But Starbucks - that's right, Starbucks - has just invented their own way to pay for things via smartphone. 

From the Transaction Directory

"Today, one in five Starbucks transactions is made using a Starbucks Card and mobile payment will extend the way our customers experience and use their Starbucks Card," said. Brady Brewer, vice president of Starbucks Card and Brand Loyalty.

Last year, Starbucks customers loaded $1.5 billion onto their cards, a 21 percent increase from 2008.

In a related story, CNN Money reports on the growing popularity of “mobile currency,” whereby customers use their mobile phones in place of cash or credit cards.

“There’s a lot of money at stake if it’s done right,” said Omar Green, director of strategic mobile initiatives at Intuit.;

For years, we've talked as an industry and as a society about the end of cash, the next wave of finance, and what the future had in store for our money. And maybe we were dreaming small - we just figured debit use would increase and cash would start to drop off as a form of payment. We weren't counting on smartphones to be the next step. Were we? 

Well, as recently as a year ago, Newsweek was predicting that the cell phone would edge its way in as a payment method, as did And here we are, seeing one of America's most interesting businesses jump in and get wet. 

While we are fighting the Interchange battle, who's watching this critical shift in the payment system? No more checks, no more Visa, no more MasterCard OR Interchange income...

Stay tuned...

November 18, 2010

A BIG Credit Union Promoter


by Ron Daly 

520 square-feet of Suze Orman is quite a bit of Suze Orman. 

One of the brightest lights in personal finance of the past few years, Suze Orman has been lighting the path to better personal finance decisions and smart money and investments. She's warmed to credit unions over the past few years and, after being asked by Ondine Irving, has been advocating NCUA deposit insurance. 

Here are some of her YouTube/TV spots:


[Embedded Media -- Click to see on YouTube]


[Embedded Media -- Click to see on YouTube]

And now, she's taking over Times Square. The NCUA managed to get an advertisement featuring Orman to shine out over the city that doesn't sleep just in time for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and an influx of visitors to the big apple. As of "press time", we weren't able to grab an image of the billboard in Times Square. We did, however, see a bus ad from in/around the DC Area (from NCUA's Facebook Page, copyright whomever took the pic): 


So, here's the big question for all you marketer types: Is this the seed for that long-desired, much-talked-about national credit union campaign? It has: 
  1. It has a nationally recognized figure in the world of finance
  2. It's declarative, simple and easy-to-understand
  3. It clears up a misconception (just one misconception) that certain consumers have about credit unions 

Could we extend that message to CUs as a whole? Chances are Orman won't solely advocate for CUs, but doesn't this feel like a good place to start talking about "The Difference" and "The Movement"?

We always appreciate your thoughts. And please, if you get a picture of the Times Square ad, send it to us!



October 21, 2010

Online and the Branch: Is It Time to Change the Channel?


by Ron Daly 

Used to be there were "soda jerks" - guys in white hats and striped shirts that knew how to make a root beer float. Then, someone figured "Oh, heck - just let people get their own soda. Or hey, put it in a can!" Suddenly, the soda jerks were gone. 

The big thing when I was a kid was a portable radio that you could listen to all on your lonesome. Now, you can choose the songs you want with no commercials. You sort them and shuffle them and keep your tiny white earbuds in so you don't have to make conversation on the train. 

The old gets replaced or diminished and the new shows up to, ostensibly, make things better. The same is happening now to credit unions across the country. As online banking, eStatements, automatic bill pay and debit cards increase, the desire for branches decreases. Which is good and bad. 

From the Gonzo Banker article, "Getting Real About Delivery Channel Shift":

Electronic payments continue to increase in utilization versus cash and plastic, driving teller transactions lower. And of the teller transactions still coming to the branch, how many of those wind up coming through the drive-through? Online account opening and funding, originally championed by credit unions and now widely adopted by banks, means there is even less reason to head into the branch. I visit branches on a regular basis to assess sales and service technology and can’t remember the last time I got to observe a live account opening process since there weren’t any customers in the branch.

Yes, the branch is suffering. But it doesn't have to die. 

From the Financial Brand's article, "People Bank Online, But Prefer Branches for Service"

For routine transactions, 41.4% of consumers indicated their preferred banking channel was online. This was followed by branches at 32.6%, ATMs at 23.3%, mobile a distant fourth at 1.5%, and finally the telephone at 1.3%.

Yet when faced with problems, consumer preferences shifted drastically. Consumers most often wanted to speak with a person when they had an account issue. 60% cited the desire to visit a branch with a banking problem, while 34% preferred using the phone. Only 6% would prefer to take up their issue online.

“Connecting with consumers in a one-on-one manner can drastically influence bank loyalty,” said Gary Edwards, EVP/Client Services at Empathica. “The importance of this is compounded during problem resolution. If you can quickly address a consumer’s concerns, they are more likely to be loyal to your bank than a consumer who never voiced any concerns at all.”

What always strikes me funny about stories such as this - the number of people who read "32% of people prefer branches for routine transactions" and think it's time to pour the foundation on another branch. Wake up, folks - 64.7% are eager for ATM and online transactions, according to the article above...another branch is going to hurt more than it helps. 

Given this data, why aren't credit unions in this country focusing on their online interactions first? Just think of your OLB as another branch - what does it need? 

1) Security

Could a member pull up your OLB at a public terminal and log out without anxiety over someone being able to access their account after they leave? Do you have MFA? No, not a Masters of Fine Arts...multi-factor authentication. How about a timed lockout? 

2) Hospitality

Don't skimp on UI design. A system people hate to use or find too complicated is like a branch with no pens and no tellers. Even if you can set up the transaction, no processing means you've wasted your time. 

Also, would it kill you to make your online banking LOOK NICE?!?

3) Speed

Is there a menu that links to everything a member could do in online banking? Nope? Then make one. 

4) The "Kitchen Sink"

 The biggest difference between your online branch and your physical branches? Next-level services for members. A teller isn't going to call a member when their account is too low or when there's a new product they should look into or when they've over drafted. An online "teller" can do just that, in the form of emails, text messages and, yes, automated calls. What better way to convince the member you're working for them than to prove it with cost-effective calls and messages?

And no, you don't have to do away with your physical branch. You just need a shift in what it's used for. The Gonzo Banker article above points out that many banks and CUs are changing formats, making the teller we're used to into a customer service rep. By doing so, they're reducing the steps between entry and exit and redefining what "going to the branch" means. If folks are only showing up to get problems solved, then make it a place for problem solving. Let your online do the bulk of the work, because that's where a bulk of your users are anyway.