Colo. CU Brings Inside Two 'Staff' Who Aren't 'Staff'

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Rather than add to its own staff in the short term, Ent Federal Credit Union has brought in two employees of a public relations and advertising company to work on-site and report to one of its executives to help it serve its recently expanded charter.

In September 2004 Ent FCU, the largest credit union in Colorado with more than $1.7 billion in assets and 160,000 members, was granted approval by NCUA to adopt underserved populations in Denver, Adams and Arapahoe Counties. According to James Moore, Ent FCU's senior vice president of corporate communications, the credit union's director of marketing left for personal reasons, creating a hole in the organization. Ent turned to PRACO Public Relations Advertising Co., which has offices in both Denver and Colorado Springs, for assistance.

"We faced a couple of challenges in the next 12 to 24 months because of NCUA's approval to take on the underserved populations," he said. "We were working with PRACO on another project, which led to conversations. We wanted to work with a company with experience in multiple markets and different media groups."

PRACO suggested two of its senior employees-Curtis Fox and Cathy Grossman-be located in Ent FCU's office as directors of marketing and public relations. After the credit union calculated the cost of doing so, Ent's board of directors approved the idea on an interim basis.

Fox and Grossman report to Moore, who said the arrangement has worked well since it started in the first week of January.

"They are bringing the perspectives and insights we hoped they would bring," he said. "As we become more familiar with what we are going to do from a strategic perspective for serving those new markets, I will be looking for someone to head up those two departments as employees of the credit union, not PRACO. We have an 18- to 24-month window while we evaluate."

Fox and Grossman were brought in-house with no additional expenses to Ent because the amount budgeted for marketing and public relations was sufficient to cover the arrangement, said Moore, who added he did not know of any other CU that uses outside employees in this manner.

Ent is actively looking for real estate in the greater Denver area to establish branches to serve its adopted underserved locations. Moore said these include zip codes in Aurora and the area by Denver International Airport.

"We think we have the right mix of products and services to meet what NCUA is looking for with the charter change, but we need to find the right locations," he said.

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