Retaining Those SEGs After Going Community

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CU: Sunmark FCU

Category: Community Outreach

How does a credit union that has moved to a community charter preserve its relationships with former SEGs?

By staying well connected, according to Rachel Zimolka, Business Development Executive with Sunmark FCU.

The $406-million Sunmark faced its new challenges head-on with a list of strategic initiatives that would seek to make its former SEG members still feel special while growing new members within its new field of membership.

"A few years ago, Sunmark decided to go to a community charter," Zimolka said. "But, we didn't want to lose the relationships we had with our employee-based groups."

She said the CU's Business Partner and Outreach program included several target goals that resulted in measurable results, including recruitment of 40 new community business partners, bringing the total of companies within its FOM that offer Sunmark membership to 310.

Zimolka outlined specific initiatives:

Contribute measurable service to the community. "Key areas were identified as strategic initiatives to aid in the prioritization and deployment of Sunmark's limited financial and personnel resources," she said. "Those were financial literacy, home ownership opportunity and economic development."

This has been achieved, in part, through community service, she said.

"Sunmark has donated 692 man-hours to community service in 2004 and 2005 year to date, more than $50,000 toward events and organizations aligned with the three focused areas, and launched a pilot financial literacy program for public housing residents of Schenectady County that teaches actionable steps toward financial independence."

The goal: provide a strategic advantage to business and organizations. This includes former SEGs as well as new businesses, Zimolka said.

"The Community Business Partner liaison program was redesigned to be more robust," she said.

This included providing more actionable information to liaisons at their annual breakfast, adding a points system (redeemable for prizes that included a 27-inch television) to encourage desired activities such as increasing the frequency of on-site credit union visits, and adding a quarterly newsletter to provide additional communications opportunities with community business partner liaisons. The result, thus far, 40 new partners that represent a potential membership base of more than 2,500, she said.

In addition, the CU has recruited 1,145 new members through on-site activities.

The next step was to integrate business development into the commercial deposits program. Zimolka said this involved an ongoing relationship between herself, commercial entities and branch managers to develop "community business partner benefits."

"For example, any small company that doesn't offer direct deposit to its employees can become a commercial business partner," she said.

In turn, Sunmark can go in and recruit its employees as members and offer direct deposit through its internal payroll system.

Similarly, any commercial business partner can take advantage of the CU's commercial deposit and loan products.

"By setting a series of quality improvement objectives that support a long-range strategic goal, Sunmark's business development program continues to create new growth opportunities while adapting to the ever-changing needs of our members, communities, business partners, and the credit union movement," Zimolka said.

Sunmark, so far, has increased its membership to 48,000 members, she said. Comparatively, the CU had 45,000 members and $333 million in assets at the start of the program in January 2004.

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