Oregon CU Credits Rival's Advertising For Membership Boost

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One credit union in this state has seen an influx in members-and it's crediting the name change and subsequent media campaign of another credit union for much of the business.

The $2.2-billion Portland Teachers Credit Union, the largest CU in Oregon with 170,000 members, changed its name to OnPoint Community CU on Jan. 1. Point West CU, which is one-twentieth the size of OnPoint Community at $100-million in assets and 12,500 members, has benefited from efforts by OnPoint to raise awareness, according to Mike Fletcher, vice president of marketing and business development for Point West CU.

New Members To Point West

Fletcher said OnPoint has employed an extensive advertising campaign to note its name change, and the resulting publicity apparently has brought new members to Point West. In January, Point West opened 251 new memberships-its best month ever by 44 members.

It is difficult to determine how many of these people walked in the door because of OnPoint's ads, but Fletcher said the increase is remarkable.

"It is pretty incredible," he said. "We've been growing rapidly for the last year since we changed our focus and started advertising in our neighborhood, but to have our best month by that many members is extraordinary. And January, while it usually is not a bad month for us, is not our best month. Usually, we add the most members in the summer months."

In 2001, MULTCO Credit Union (named for Multnomah County) changed its name to Point West CU. Fletcher said it had limited growth for the following three years, until it began advertising for the first time in October 2004. It continues to do some local radio spots, but most of its advertising is in local newspapers that serve the east side of Portland.

In addition, Point West sponsors community organizations such as the YMCA, and events such as fundraisers to fight cystic fibrosis and a Martin Luther King memorial food drive.

Point West does not have a community charter, but Fletcher said it is "relatively open."

"If someone works or lives in the Portland area, chances are they'll be eligible; though we do have to turn some people away."

Too Close for Comfort?

Point West issued a media advisory noting PTCU's name change to OnPoint had brought it increased business. The press release included a statement the smaller CU found it "disappointing" the new name was so similar. When asked Point West's opinion on the OnPoint name, Fletcher emphasized the press release was not a "dig" at the larger CU.

"It was disappointing, but I don't think they did anything to hurt Point West Credit Union, because that is not what credit unions do. That being said, the name being so similar to ours was disappointing."

"We wanted people to know there were two credit unions with similar names-that was one reason we put out the release," he continued. "The other is, we just found it funny that our membership has gone up. We thought the local media and the credit union community might find it interesting. It was not meant to be a dig. If anything, we should be thanking them because they've helped our business. It is nothing negative; there is plenty of room for everybody."

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