Advice On How To Craft (The Often Missing) SEG Business Plan

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Examiners are asking to see credit unions' select employee group business plans, which is a problem for many -because they don't have one, suggested one SEG development consultant.

"Examiners are asking for your SEG business plan, and it needs to include a number of elements-the purpose of the SEG program, your expectations of it, what your budget is," said Dan Maslia of Credit Union SEG Concepts, Atlanta in his remarks before CUES annual meeting. "Your plan has to account for the internal structure-is your SEG development part of the marketing department, for example? You have to be able to show your competition strategy."

But credit unions, he suggested, "had it too easy" for just long enough that even CUs with hundreds of SEGs often don't have a comprehensive plan. "It used to be that the finance companies and the banks weren't interested, so we'd go in and sign up 50% to 60% without a problem, and we had only two products: savings and loans," Maslia recalled. "Today we compete with everybody, we can't just expect the business to fall into our laps."

Maslia, the former CEO at Associated Credit Union in Atlanta, offered a number of suggestions for CUs to consider when crafting their SEG development plans:

* Establish a minimum number of employees a business must have to be solicited as a SEG. "The exception to this is the business that's right across the street from you," Maslia added.

* Put together an association agreement. "This doesn't say much, but it does give an official relationship," he counseled, noting that common concerns that some would-be SEGs-such as whether the employer is responsible when an employee defaults on a loan-should be addressed as well as what the CU expects in the form of support from the employer.

* Review advertising channels and materials.

* List the various ways the CU will identify prospects: chamber of commerce directory, HR organization lists, office park tenant lists, etc.

* Look at each prospective SEG and determine whether it complements the CU's existing membership, fits the CU's strategic direction-and if the group's employees qualify for and use the CU's services.

* A primary part of any SEG development officer's job is visiting a potential SEG's site, as well as visiting existing SEG sites. The key to such visits is to pack a lot of punch into a little time-this means any presentation should be no more than five to 10 minutes long, with much of the rest of the time being dedicated to listening, he recommended.

Almost as important as having a SEG business plan-and just as neglected by many CUs-is having a SEG PR plan, Maslia said, offering his 12-step program:

* Send a copy of the annual report and a letter to the CEO of the SEG.

* Send a thank you letter to the official after every visit.

* Highlight your SEGs in your lobby and newsletter.

* Require branch managers to visit SEGs in their areas (again, five minutes is sufficient).

* Read business news for news about your SEGs-when you see positive press about a SEG, send a congratulatory letter.

* Designate a personal banker for SEG officials.

* Send birthday cards to SEG officials.

* Send a thank you letter to officials at a new SEG after sign-up.

* Do a follow-up phone call two months after sign up just to "check up."

* Attend SEG's annual meetings.

* Create a newsletter for SEG officials.

* Develop a comprehensive ambassador program.

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