Raincross Invests In Tech To Help Staunch Member Loss

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A $36-million credit union here has been taking a "downhill slide," losing roughly 7% of its membership in the past three years, according to its CEO.

The small Raincross Credit Union is competing against a veritable candy store of cooperative banking represented by five Riverside credit unions ranging in assets from $12 million to $1 billion.

"Members have a choice as to which credit union they want to belong," said Vernon Elliott. "And then they've got the banks, too."

Raincross' 6,700 SEG-based members are city employees and chamber of commerce members of Riverside.

In addition to losing members to the competition, the one-branch Raincross loses members when they move away from Riverside, said Elliott.

But Elliott isn't surrendering.

The CEO has a plan to regain a foothold in the scuffle among the six Riverside credit unions by using up-to-date technologies to keep members happy.

"We're trying to retain members," Elliott said. "Technology enables homebanking, shared branching, and audio-response so that our members don't have to come in to our one physical branch. We've started gradually adding those services that not only streamline our operation but give benefits to our membership."

Elliott thinks that up-to-date service adds up to happy members. "If you're providing the service, you'll retain the member," he said.

If Raincross offers the full range of service options, Elliott continued, even transient members will stick with the CU.

"With online, service center and telephone banking, members don't have to close their accounts when they move," he explained.

Raincross doesn't go the road alone when it comes to working with current banking technology.

Instead, the CU counts on GalaxyPlus to "keep us on the edge," Elliott said. GalaxyPlus is a Troy, Mich.-based firm that develops credit union systems.

"Through GalaxyPlus we can offer the same services-the homebanking, the bill pay, the shared branching-as the bigger credit unions," said Elliott. "And whenever a new technology hits the industry, we need GalaxyPlus to be able to respond as quickly as every other vendor."

This quarter, Raincross will add the GalaxyPlus' collection management tool for delinquent accounts, Elliott said.

Raincross also uses GalaxyPlus' e-statements; e-alerts; audio response; a GalaxyPlus core system interface to CUNA Mutual's LOANLINER Web-enabled lending tool; courtesy pay; and paperless teller receipts, all in an online, service bureau environment.

Elliott hopes that technology will help strengthen Raincross' appeal. The CU saw at least one good sign in 2004: Assets climbed by more than 10 %, said Elliott.

But consumers won't knock down the Raincross door to gain access to technologies alone, he said. Raincross will continue working with members face-to-face.

"Our members will stick with us because we answer the phone in person during business hours, and because they can come visit us," Elliott said. "We're going to try to keep our personal touch."

CUJ Resources

For additional information on this story:

* Raincross CU at www.raincrosscu.org

* GalaxyPlus at www.galaxyplus.com

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