One Milwaukee CU Finds A 'Prime' Reason To Change

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The former Milwaukee Metropolitan Credit Union has changed its name to Prime Financial to help expand its reach to potential members.

The CU with 34,000 members and $164 million in assets said the previous name-in fact, the previous two names-gave the impression that membership was limited to city and county workers when that was not the case.

"We are in essence a community-chartered credit union, originally Milwaukee Municipal CU," said Steve Schultz, Executive VP. "In 1991, we changed from municipal to metropolitan to reflect a larger field of membership scope but still found that many people thought that once they retired or moved out of the area, they had to leave the credit union."

PFCU was chartered in 1923 and now has five branches in the Milwaukee area and serves one national religious SEG.

Schultz said a branding survey in the fall of 2004 was the final straw when it revealed that many thought they had to be city or county employees to join the credit union.

"The name change process was exciting and something that we need to do," he said.

The credit union retained D. Hilton Associates of The Woodlands, Texas, to orchestrate the change. "They presented us with 25 names which we boiled down to five and narrowed from there," he said, noting that top contenders included the words "merit," "meridian" and "charter."

"Prime just stood out," Schultz said. "It has universal appeal and means 'first,' which is how we see ourselves-first in quality, first in service."

According to NCUA, there are five other CUs that use "Prime" in their names, including one in West Virginia that also calls itself Prime Financial.

While the new name became official on Jan. 2, members were eased into the transition through direct mail and lobby posters promising "exciting changes in 2006."

"We were very proactive in informing members that this was just a name change and not a merger," he said adding that the pieces were sensitive to longtime members as well.

"We didn't want to alienate that group so we outline how this name change would benefit them," he said. "We told them that it would not hinder them from performing transactions outside of Milwaukee because it's non-territorial."

Once the campaign was complete, the community was introduced to the "new" Prime Financial via radio, website, direct mail advertising.

"We supplemented that with internal training so our employees would know how to answer anticipated questions from members."

Schultz said it took about $120,000 and 18 months to decide on the name and create a complementing logo that was "young and progressive and showed forward movement."

"We have received numerous compliments on the name as well as the logo throughout the community," Schultz said. Its introduction has, so far, been followed by the introduction of a new checking account promotion that offers a $50 reward to anyone that opens a new account with direct deposit.

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