MCUL Launches Radio Spot To Lure Angry Customers

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Massachussetts credit unions are looking to capitalize on a potential onslaught of angry bank customers in the wake of the Fleet Boston-Bank of America merger that was consummated earlier this month as the Massachusetts CU League today launches a radio spot to remind those bank customers to consider the credit union alternative.

The new spot is airing through the end of June right at the same time that Bank of America's signs will start replacing Fleet-Boston.

"The message is simple. Credit unions do not view member accounts as property that they can buy and sell in order to realize huge gains," said MCUL's Rob Kimmet. "Credit unions are member owned and have lasting relationships with the people who live in the communities that they serve. Some of the megabanks, the McBanks that come and go depending on where the profit is, customer service and being part of the community is a business strategy, while for credit unions, member service and being part of the community is a commitment. There's a big difference between a strategy and a commitment, and we think consumers need to know that."

Credit unions have good reason to believe they can capitalize on this latest merger: just look at what happened in 2000 when Fleet Bank merged with Bank of Boston to create Fleet Boston.

"We saw a tremendous shift toward credit unions during that merger," Kimmet recalled. "We saw about a 16.5% increase in checking accounts opened during 2000 and we saw a 23% increase in the number of dollars in checking accounts. People do vote with their feet."

Even so, credit unions may not see quite the same uptick as a result of this merger compared to the one that created Fleet Boston.

"Credit unions will do well in the face of this merger, but the pickings won't be as easy," Kimmet suggested. "For one thing, the more these mergers happen, the more consumers become sort of numb to the trauma. Plus, I think BofA has a much more savvy merger strategy, a more strategic roll-out of the national in this area. And BofA has a better reputation as a retail bank than Fleet did when it was acquiring Bank Boston."

Moreover, other medium and small financial institutions in the area are also flooding the market with marketing aimed at capitalizing on the merger, as well. "Massachusetts is kind of unique in that we still have 170 individually chartered financial institutions as well as 235 credit unions," he added.

The league has been running a CU awareness campaign since 1996, sometimes using television and sometimes radio. Kimmet said the league has gone with radio for the last three years because it allows for more flexibility with the message.

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