How 1 CU Dealt With SEGs' Reactions As It Went Community

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When Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union converted to a community charter two years ago, some members weren't happy about it.

"They said they didn't feel special anymore," noted Gary Lanier, VP of Sales and Member Services. "Several of them made the comment that things weren't as personal as when you had to belong to a company to join."

In focus groups sponsored by the credit union, other members talked of how the marketing campaigns that included billboards and television advertising appealed to the masses rather than individuals.

Lanier will discuss how EFFCU changed that perception during his talk, "How To Make Your SEGs Feel Special When You Go Community," at The Credit Union Journal's 6th Annual SEG & Business Development Conference. The event is set for March 31-April 1 at Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla.

"We launched some aggressive efforts last year that included special coupons for the SEG companies, having car dealers bring cars out to company sites just for the employees, and giving donations to their charities to make them feel special," he explained.

He said Eastern Financial still focuses efforts on its new community charter, but uses a separate approach to appeal to individual SEGs.

"We have two different strategies," he said. "The community strategy includes billboards and television advertising. But, we haven't forgotten our SEGs and who they are. They still represent 40% of our membership."

For the latter, Lanier said, the credit union produced a video that featured retirees discussing memories of trips with Carnival Cruise Lines, which is headquartered nearby and is one of the credit union's SEGs.

"One of the big things was getting involved with their charities," Lanier said. "We match the first $10,000 that they raise and provide give-away items to help with their fundraising efforts."

EFFCU, with $1.8-billion in assets and more than 900 SEGS, also created a "Second Chance Checking" account for those members who were previously rejected because of blights in their records.

"If they had a record in the check system that they owed money, we turned them down," Lanier said. "Representatives at the company said a lot of people weren't happy about that."

Realizing that, in some cases, the blights were created because of a single incident, CU leaders offered the Second Chance accounts and improved their relationships with SEGs and members, he said.

It Pays To Be An Ambassador

And, anyone fortunate enough to serve as an ambassador for Eastern Financial, gets the VIP treatment. For starters, Lanier said, the CU provides them with tickets to all the major sporting events, admission to a VIP tent during the annual Air and Sea show in Ft. Lauderdale, and an annual cruise.

"We have to take care of them," he said. "They are our mouthpiece and what they say goes a long way."

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