How One CU Boosted Auto Lending By 300%

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Credit Union: Financial Resources FCU

Nominated by: CUNA

Mutual Group, Madison, Wis.

Nominated for: Lending Practices

Financial Resources FCU underwent a complete redesign of its loan program last year, turning the $300-million CU into a lending powerhouse.

"In one year, our auto lending is up just under 300%," said Matt Masters, VP of Lending at FRFCU.

He said keeping the biggest factors in boosting FRFCU's lending volume has been in keeping its virtual business doors open 24 hours a day and targeting members who had taken loans out elsewhere to borrow from the credit union.

Inspired by a new management team headed by CEO Lena Matthews, Masters said the CU partnered with CUNA Mutual to train staff and gain access to products and services to improve its loan portfolio.

Matthews was FRFCU's VP-operations and internal auditor before landing the top job. Masters also promoted from within after working as an internal auditor.

"Lena Matthews was able to bring in a lot of fresh new ideas," he said. "And with a fresh, new management team, it's a great time for vendors to step in and show us their (products and services)."

Masters said the CU researched several companies before choosing CUNA Mutual. "They are really a partner and an extension of our management team," he said. They are truly looking for ways to save us money."

Among the biggest changes CUNA Mutual helped Financial Resources make was offering its lending services 24/7.

"A year ago, we had lending services available only between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.," Masters said. "Now, members can go into a showroom on a Friday evening and call in and get loan approval that same night."

Or, if they prefer, he said, they can log onto CUNA Mutual's for the same quick response.

"Our lending went from 0% to 60% through these channels," Masters said. "About 15% of that is occurring nights and weekends, outside the normal business hours."

With the infrastructure already in place-the computer technology, the staff and CUNA Mutual's products and services-Masters said the transition was smooth and the cost is minimal.

Not surprisingly, he said, the Internet is the more popular of the two options as it allows members to punch in all their information and get instant response. In some cases, he said, they are referred to a loan officer, who is also available 24/7.

Masters said the CU has "hammered" members with information about the new loan services via statement stuffers, its quarterly newsletter and CU trinkets, including magnets that include all of CUNA Mutual's loanliner contact information.

"You hear of credit unions that have had success with indirect auto lending, but we have had our success without going that route," Masters said, explaining that his credit union has been in some battles with local dealers who lure consumers in with promises of 0% financing.

He added that Financial Resources even launched a campaign to recapture some of those loans.

"We did a prescreen of our members' credit and identified which members went somewhere else for an auto loan," he said. "Then we sent them a letter asking them to look at our rates."

He said CU officials then followed up with a phone call to offer that "personal touch" and explain that refinancing wouldn't cost them a dime or effort and could save them money.

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