Mirror, Mirror On The Wall: SECU To Hang Mirrors In 206 Braches To Help Members Reflect

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RALEIGH, N.C. - State Employees' Credit Union wants its members to look at themselves, so they are holding up a very large mirror, eventually in all 205 branches.

Can the song be far behind? "See the pretty member in the mirror, there; who can that attractive member be?"

"Well, you," said SECU President Jim Blaine, when asked the rhetorical question of just who is supposed to see themselves as the owner(s) of the $12-billion-plus credit union. "The member, that is."

SECU is installing 5X7-foot mirrors in the lobbies of all their locations that bear the message, "Meet SECU's Owners-You're Looking Good!"

Blaine's tongue-in-cheek answer was a comical opening for a subject on which he is deadly serious. That is, reminding credit union members that they are part of a democratically structured financial cooperative in which their votes counts, no matter how much or how little they have on deposit. Blaine is keenly aware that bankers have adopted the message that size makes credit unions just like banks-the bigger the more bank-like-and he's determined to guard against that charge being foisted at SECU.

Making It Personal

"It's just one more way to tell the members what CUs are all about," said Blaine. "Particularly as you get larger, it's important to replant your roots. It's why we have branches; to serve people where they live or work; to make it convenient. It's about the relationship. It's about making it personal. It's about the essence of credit unions not being the quantifiable, commercial institutions that banks are."

And the mirrors? "Well, everyone loves a mirror. Who can resist?" Blaine said that 20 had already been installed and the reaction has been positive. "Some thought it was a little hokey," he admitted. "But it's doing what it was intended to do: make members ask questions about the message, as in, 'Oh, you mean me? I own the credit union?' It's just those brief conversations that help us to reinforce the difference between us and the rest. We need to keep having those conversations with members because we can get lazy and assume they know. We mustn't take it for granted; that's all I'm saying."

Back In 1937

He noted that SECU had initiated member advisory boards as far back as 1973 to seek opinions and has conducted board meetings in other cities "in order to get out of Raleigh," to hear what other "locals" think. (Those other cities include Charlotte and Wilmington.)

"We happen to believe that group of folks that formed this credit union back in 1937 knew exactly what they were doing," said Blaine.

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