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74 posts categorized "Personal Finance"

October 12, 2010

2,689% APR, Anyone? The Macro-Micro-Loan


by Ron Daly

We were made aware of a service called Wonga by our friend Ron Shevlin, who attended Finovate 2010. Wonga is a short-term micro lender that loans as much (as little?) as £400 (it's a British company) for a maximum of only one month. Micro-lending has been a hot topic lately, you give a little and get a little back and you feel like you're helping someone get their dream off the ground. 

Wonga is a little different. See, you're not borrowing the money because you're a small business owner - you're borrowing it because you want £400 (approx. $633) right now. So that means you're buying...what, an iPad? A very expensive dinner? New wardrobe? A really serious round of drinks? 

Spotting yourself a small amount of money doesn't seem crazy, with the right percentage and fees on the money you're borrowing. And how much APR does Wonga tie to lent money? 


You read that correctly. 

Continue reading "2,689% APR, Anyone? The Macro-Micro-Loan" »

July 13, 2010

The acorns are still small - is it time to quit watering the oaks?


by Ron Daly 

Here in Virginia (at DMI world headquarters), we've experienced very little rain lately. Last night, however, we had a real soaker. Everything that grows got a much-needed drink and the grass is suddenly greener on everyone's side of the fence. 

This heatwave/thunderstorm pattern's put me in mind of the debate about "Gen Y" members/customers and their late Gen X/Young Boomer parents. Should CUs go after young members in hope of "watering" these financial acorns into the might oaks their parents have been? Should they continue to ignore these (mostly) broke users in favor of more fruitful consumers with better credit? Lending opportunities will keep on going for boomers and Gen X, right? 

Maybe not. The picture's looking a little bleak for the rapidly-aging Americans that have turbo charged our economy these past sixty years. A report from the Today show this morning showed many Boomers and some Gen Xers will run out of retirement money during retirement. Quite a pill to swallow, but not unexpected given the events of the past two years. 

Here's where you prove yourself a clutch player in the lives of your older members. You continue to guide them through the rocky shoal of making sure they can have what they need to stay afloat when they're not working and trying to enjoy their "golden years". Reports such as the one mentioned and increased economic concerns will undoubtedly weigh on your member's minds. Be the shoulder to cry on. 

And then, there's the youngsters. Rob Rubin of wrote an article in the Huffington Post about attracting younger members and making a conscious effort to decrease the average age of a CU member. It's easy to get caught up in the hype regarding Gen Y and to be sold a bunch of snake oil about how your CEO has to breakdance on YouTube and get a million hits to save you from being acquired in a merger. It's far more important to look at the facts. 

There's a good article in this month's Credit Union Management magazine about "capturing" Gen Y members. It highlights the good work of credit unions like Shell FCU and their iLife program. An important snippet from that article: 

"A lot of kids saw the struggles that their parents were going through and they didn't want to make the same mistakes," says [Traci] Archer [, Marketing Manager]. 

And as a follow up: 

iLife seems to have indeed spurred a youth movement within the Shell FCU membership. According to Archer, in the Spring of 2008, the mean age for all Shell FCU members was 47. In Spring 2010, the mean age was 41. 

That's an actual result. Hard to argue with facts. 

The article has great examples from a lot of other credit unions that went on a mission to recruit more Gen Y members and succeeded with enviable results. It's easy for young people to get disparaged by the media and the current climate. You can be a shoulder for them to cry on, as well. Make it known you want to create a lifelong financial relationship with them and start treating them with the respect and due deference you've shown the generation that sired them.

That bit of "data" that was being thrown around a while ago about how much money Gen Y stands to inherit? It's looking to be less and less likely all the time. The generation that we presume has been handed everything they've got is very likely to miss out on the big bonanza we've pictured them coming in to when we're all dead. Does that mean you're going to have thriftier, sharper consumers when Gen Y comes of age? Only time will tell, but you could certainly guide these young, pliable members in that direction. That is, if you're interested in having any members at all in the next ten to fifteen years. 

July 07, 2010

Pay-for-Referral: Putting Your Money Where Your Word-of-Mouth Is


by Ron Daly 

I was over at CU Water Cooler's website, looking at the links of the day for July 6. Quick note to other CU pros: why aren't you over there reading these great stories and links? Get with it. 

One that jumped out at me was the story from about NetPromoter Scores for CUs, Big Banks, Community Banks and Online banks. I think the title/intended message is a little misleading (35% say they'd leave their banks "if it were easier"...switch kit vendors, take note!). But there IS something to talk about in this article - that awesome NPS for credit unions! 64% said they would refer a friend or family member to their credit union.

We know that the big reason people don't switch from a big bank to a CU or community bank is because they're under the impression that a switch is inconvenient or even difficult. We know that more than half of CU members would encourage friends to switch. What's the missing piece of this puzzle? 

I say incentives. We work with credit unions all the time that offer "$10 for every family member referred" and similar promotions, but is there any way to spice up the offer a little? What about a MAJOR giveaway for most friends-turned-members? 

I ask because I recently watched this interesting (if a little daunting) video about game design in real life. Apparently, the concept of "experience points" is enticing to people. "Leveling up" turns a promotion for "bring in the most members" from a contest into a game. Everyone talks about their being no practical use for social media in finance, let's find a way to make it work. 

A contest idea for everyone:

Give current members points for every new referral, and set up social media "leader boards" that shout out the results day-to-day for each of the promoters. You don't have to make it video game themed, per se, but you should make your grand prize (for your first person to ~10,000 points or whatever) worth the time it takes to send out the information. 

An idea just for promoters:

If 64% of your member base is willing to tell non-members how much they love you, why not pay them for their time? If you have a smart survey program, you can sort out who's a promoter and who's a detractor at your CU - so, why not give only those promoters a special "put up or shut up" offer that rewards their referrals? Maybe it's the above contest and you give some bonus points to those members. You have so much data available to you, if you're willing to work for it and work with it. 

Some possible drawbacks:

Is there a sticking point when it comes to ages? The older you are, the harder it is to convince you to move your money. I'm basing that on no other research than my own opinion, because I've had the same accounts at the same credit union for thirty-seven years. I'd have to be really peeved to move my checking. It affects direct deposits, ACH, bill pay - yes, you can go change all that if you've only had a banking relationship for a few months to a few years, but nearly four decades? I'm one of those people that actually cares about my credit union. You couldn't drag me away, no matter the prize. 

So, where's the "fix"? How do you truly reward members for bringing in profitable new members? How do you REALLY sweeten the deal for those people who have had a relationship with their prior bank for ages? 

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. 

June 17, 2010

More Ads Coming Out of More Credit Unions - Will It Mean Business or Backlash?


by Ron Daly 

The New York Times did a run-down of credit union ads and the new face of credit union marketing Friday of last week.  The article (in my opinion) goes back and forth between "about time" and "really?" in terms of tone. There are some praise-worthy notes and some jabs that feel a little more like condescension than reporting. But maybe that's just me. 

This was accompanied by a "Bucks" blog post with videos and PDF versions of "anti-bank" campaigns from different CUs around the country. 

I really liked the above ad from America's First FCU. It's got an "anti-bank" element to it, but it ends on a high-note and isn't vitriolic. One aspect of many of the ads featured are actors pretending to be bankers. Really? You really can't come up with one single real-life example of "bankers behaving badly"? Watch the video below:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Remind me: When's the last time a group of credit union employees tore up the highway in a Lambo? 

There are folks who are concerned all this "bank bashing" is counter-productive. One such person is Jason Sherrill, who wonders if this method of advertising has lead to more people being against financial institutions altogether...and to consequences such as the Durbin amendment. 

I want you to tell me what to think about all this. Are these anti-banking campaigns going to have a negative effect on membership and on our credibility as an industry? 

I set up a simple survey via our online survey tool that will collect your data and I'll print the results when I have an "n group" of 50 voters. 

Talk to me, credit unions. What say you?

Go to and tell us what you think.

[Thanks again to friend-of-the-blog Jeffry Pilcher and The Financial Brand for bringing these stories to our attention.]

May 27, 2010

Reg E Opt-Ins, Part 2: Compelling Arguments


by Ron Daly 

Our last post walked through some of the headaches associated with Reg E opt-in programs at credit unions. Members are reportedly planning to throw away their opt-in forms and not bother with overdraft protection, and there's really not much we can do other than make a compelling argument as to why members should enroll.

An article from CU Journal from the 17th of this month has advice from Rory Rowland of Rowland Consulting. I thought some of it was worth sharing with you.

Some mistakes that Rowland says CUs are making: 

  • Waiting to see what happens: "This is not a healthy strategy. Get a plan of action. Place an (opt-in) banner message on your website to encourage people to opt in. When members overdraw, send them and e-mail and tell them about the new regulation and that they need to opt in. If they are in the top 29% of your abusers, call them." 
  • Lack of monitoring: "You need to know how much income you are making from courtesy checking-20% to 29% of your members give you 90% of your NSF income. Target those top 29% and get them to opt in before July 1."
  • Front-line staff have no idea what they are doing: "Do you have talking points written for front-line staff to tell members how to opt in?"

Continue reading "Reg E Opt-Ins, Part 2: Compelling Arguments" »

May 19, 2010

Waiting It Out, or Just Not Getting On Board?


by Ron Daly

There's an old joke about a guy who lives at the foot of a volcano. The volcano erupts, spilling lava toward his home and his village. His neighbors hop in their car and say "Our car is fast, we can get away in time. Come with us." 

"No," says the man, "God will come for me and save me from the lava."

Later on, the lava has reached his porch and burned off the front steps and the siding. The man climbs to the second floor of his house and a military tank full of survivors rolls by and says "Sir, jump onto the tank. We can't get burned and we'll keep you safe."

"No," says the man, "God will come for me and save me from the lava."

The lava gets deeper, and the house starts to dissolve. The man must climb up to his roof. A helicopter drops him a rope ladder, saying "Climb up! Climb up!"

"No," says the man, "God will come for me and save me from the lava."

The man gets swallowed by the lava, and is reduced to ash.

He gets to Heaven and talks to God. "I thought you'd save me!" the man said to the Almighty.

God looked confused. "I sent a car, a tank, and then a helicopter - what more do you WANT from me?!?"

Which reminds me - Reg E is still an issue. 

Get with the program! 

Reg E is an issue that threatens everyone in the financial services industry - it's going to affect income and capital, it's going to affect member relationships, and it's going to affect the bottom line. Credit unions across the country are scrambling to try and find a way to get folks "opted in" before the deadline on August 15 (yes, there's a July 1 deadline on new members, but August 15 affects everyone). There's a lot of worry, as some credit unions/banks just can't do without the fee income. And when the next step is a choice that hinges on the members and customers, the results could be a blessing or a curse. 

Blessing: the income still exists, members just have to opt-in to overdraft protection (or courtesy pay, whichever you prefer). Which means they'll get their way at POS and pay for it later, and the CU can collect on the error.

Curse: everyone is automatically opted out after August, and that's going to mean a big hit on income. Whether they come back to overdraft protection or not is at their discretion. 

Everyone knows that Bank of America announced they were doing away with overdraft fees and came off looking like a good guy as a result. But they're still offering overdraft protection, they're just making it so that it takes the difference out of your savings or credit account and charging a $10 fee for it, according to this article. When every headline related to that story says "Bank of America does away with overdraft fees" and you're asking people to CHOOSE to be assessed those fees, how do you win? 

What's worse, according to this CU Journal article, is that members are planning to throw out their opt-in forms when they get them, and somewhat more disturbingly: 

The findings should be noted by credit unions and banks, said [Brian] Beach, [CEO of ACTON Marketing], because those customers will not have overdraft protection when they overdraft, will start to have their retail purchases denied and most likely will move their accounts elsewhere. “The psychology of overdraft users is such that they are extremely averse to having their debit card transactions denied at retail,” said Beach. “If they begin to be denied, they will not just re-opt-in with their current bank or credit union. Most likely they will cut and run.”

So, here's the question: how obvious is your car, your tank, your helicopter? Will a person who is at risk to use this service you've provided to them for years know what happened when their transaction is declined? Or are they just going to blame you and leave for a bank? In a new, debt-conscious America, will people want the chance to go over the limit at all? 

The lava's on its way. Get as many folks on board as you can. And if they get "burned", remind them - they had (and still have) a chance.

Your feedback is always welcome. 


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a Reg E Opt-In package that uses email and secure online forms/databases to record member opt-ins and encourage more sign-ups. 

Email us at, let us do a walk-through of the system for you, and if you tell us you're a Soapbox reader, we'll give you a discount on the system. 

This is your call to action - get started now. 

May 14, 2010

Tired of the Bank? CBS Says "Dump That Sucker"


by Ron Daly

We've been talking about the "Move Your Money" movement for a while now. CBS's EconWatch published a story earlier this week titled "Hate Your Bank? Dump That Sucker For a Credit Union!" It came with the video below and spelled out the differences between banks and CUs. [Note -- email readers, please click over to the website to watch the video.]

We've had quite a few of these in 2010. Do you find your credit union gets more memberships/inquiries because of them? What do you wish these videos would say? Are videos like these something you share with members via email or your website, like TDECU does on their home page

Tell us all about it in the comment section. 

May 04, 2010

Bank Customers Are Mad As Hell, But What Else Is There?


by Ron Daly 

An article caught my eye on Monday about rallies against banks in major cities around the country. Citizens angry at big banks (with a particular focus on Goldman Sachs, still the whipping boy for public ire) mounted protests in places such as Charlotte, NC, New York City and Washington, D.C. One particularly disturbing protest involves a giant, inflatable banker chewing up people and spitting them out - as in the following video. 

Man, that's weird. 

Anyway, it made me wonder about how credit unions are doing with drawing new members away from their old banks.As a company that works with over 180 credit unions across the country, we know that there are a handful of credit unions willing to poke at the bruise left by the big banks to get new member's attention. 

Where Anger Fails, Marketing Succeeds

It seems like every six weeks, we get a new story about the "big banks" that drives people crazy, but we rarely see an "action step" coming from the other side.

Two opinions to consider when it comes to working with "Bank Rage" - that of Paul Lucas of Paul J Lucas consulting, and that of Ron Shevlin at Aite Group

In the April 12 issue of the CU Journal, Paul Lucas outlined three major action items for credit unions looking to sway the opinion of the non-member. 

  1. Marketing Core Loan Products - That loan capital is capital you can count on, and do more with in the long run. 
  2. Cross Sell Checking with Direct Deposit - says Lucas, "Cross selling at every opportunity is the hallmark of a smart, competitive credit union."
  3. Keep Your Promises - "Knowing a member's name when she walks in the front door is not service. Handling her transactions with speed and accuracy is service." 

And speaking of service...I read a very thoughtful article on Marketing Tea Party, the new blog by Ron Shevlin. Titled "Moving His Money", the post tells the tale of a man with a long relationship with his community bank that, because of a series of unfortunate transactions, decides to move from a little bank TO a big bank. Says Shevlin in the post-story commentary: 

"This isn't a good sign for those marketers. The populist anti-big bank sentiment isn’t going to last forever. America loves to find new villains to crucify. Knowing when to jump off the #moveyourmoney wave is a decision that needs to be made."

My Rant: Why do credit unions always fight over the small piece of the pie left to them? Let's quit marketing against each other, continually moving our 6% market share between credit unions and let's figure out a way to collectively go after the 94% opportunity share out there and move it to credit unions before it's too late. 


April 22, 2010

Making a Statement - How much "green" are you saving?


by Ron Daly 

Happy Earth Day, everybody! Here's hoping you carpooled to work, you're recycling all your soda cans, and you've changed all your light bulbs to those cool curvy ones. Most of all, we hope your credit union is offering electronic statements and documents to save money and save trees. 

You're curious. How many trees am I actually saving? The answer might surprise you. It takes a lot of paper to create those mailed statements that go out at the beginning of the month, and given your number of members receiving two, three, and four sheets of paper per month, the number of trees you can save with eStatements ever year can be quite surprising - not to mention the costs you're saving by encouraging members to go green by going paperless. 

DigitalMailer Green Check-Up - Click here to get your diagnosis!

Screen shot 2010-04-22 at 10.27.39 AM 


We've created a very simple calculator to help determine how "eGreen" your credit union is. Click here to visit and run your numbers through our calculator to see how you're doing and how much "green" you're saving. You can share your score via Twitter or Facebook, or email us for more info. 

What are you doing to make your credit union greener - today, or any day? Let us know in the comments. 

April 06, 2010

Information: The Number One Enemy of Bad Lending


by Ron Daly 

I recently learned about "Borrow and Save", a program started in Baltimore by the Neighborhood Housing Services, banks and the FDIC. The program allows underserved consumers to borrow as much as $1000 at an 8% interest rate, but requires that they go through a "financial fitness" class to get the money. 

This story from WAMU in Washington talks about one consumer who has already been helped by this program. 

"I grabbed the number as soon as I seen it. I said ‘I can’t believe this is happening.' This is what I want, way better than the alternative was," says Witherspoon.

The alternative was a cash advance loan with a double-digit interest rate. Witherspoon says he did that before and it took about three years to get clear of all the repayments...

Witherspoon used his loan to pay some bills and move to a safer neighborhood with his wife and grand-kids. But he says the financial counseling was more valuable than the cash. One lesson: pay yourself first.

"So now I snatch $40 out of my pay no matter what going to a savings account just to make sure I got a little extra that I don’t need or don’t touch. That’s a plus for me," he says.

Music to a former CFO's ears. 

Here's the cold, hard truth - folks in underserved/underbanked areas that take on payday loans aren't "borrowers" so much as "victims". The rates are ridiculous (650% APR, in some cases), the terms are ridiculous (loans rolled over after the initial period, which many lawmakers are seeking to end), and borrowers who are barely getting by are finding themselves further away from financial stability as a result. A little information goes a long way in getting folks who previously thought financial management was unattainable on the right path to recovery and eventual prosperity.

I know there are community CUs and specialty CUs that cater to folks like Mr. Witherspoon (mentioned in the story above), and if they have programs like this I'd love to hear more about it. I think CUs that offer programs/packages such as this are doing good work, work that should be mentioned and applauded. If your credit union offers similar programs and is fighting hard against the pull of cash advance and payday lending, let us know. We will devote a story to your credit union's anti-payday program and give you the credit you deserve.

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome, as always, in the comments section.