Serving The Overserved: Reaching High Net-Worth Members

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Leave it to a Hollywood credit union to come up with an "A List"-a group of "special members" who get above-and-beyond service by virtue of being high net worth members.

But it's not a strategy that should be limited to Hollywood, according to one person, who believes other credit unions should repackage and tailor the idea for their own use.

"Every credit union has its 'special members,' " said Roy MacKinnon, VP-branch operations and marketing for First Entertainment Credit Union. At a health care credit union, for example, it could be all those doctors and hospital administrators who often don't join the credit union because they don't think it's for them. At an education credit union, it could be the superintendent or other top officials who make more money-and have different needs-than a teacher.

"I know a lot of you are looking at how we derive our A List and you're saying 'I don't have that business,'" MacKinnon told The Credit Union Journal's SEG & Business Development Conference. "Then whittle the numbers down for your market. Do we have any telephone credit unions here? Just look at your phone bill-someone is making good money at the phone company. Every industry has 'special' people. Start by looking at your top real estate loans, your top savings accounts, then build your own model from there."

Willing To Walk

MacKinnon laughed when telling attendees that he's seen A List members go all the way up to the third floor of the building in order to do even the most standard of transactions that could just as easily be handled in the regular lobby area, simply because they prefer to be coddled by the A List department.

This stems not only from the fact that it gives them a nicely appointed place to go that's away from the lobby, it's also because FECU has established a personal banking approach for its A List members.

The two-person department at the CU consists of a director and a receptionist/greeter/MSR. The department also gets support from branch AVPs and consumer and real estate lending AVPs.

Of course, having such a special department can breed resentment from other departments, particularly those people called on to provide support to the A List personnel.

"We still struggle with this. Some felt like the director was just a glorified teller," he related. "You've got to have your real estate loan people on board because they funnel a lot of people to this program."

What about all those non-A List members who resent not being treated with the same kid gloves? "They don't know about the A List," MacKinnon noted, explaining that the credit union doesn't promote the A List to anyone but prospective A List members, and the A List is by invitation only.

In marketing to the A List, the credit union sends all the same direct mail offers to them, but they also have some offers directed especially to them, either by direct mail or by e-mail.

How It Caters To Clients

"We do a lot by phone, calling just to check in on them. We send them birthday cards," MacKinnon offered. "We have special A List letterhead. If they need something, like certain documents, we'll drive them over to them and go see them in person. We offer special rates and products and services."

But how did First Entertainment CU come up with the A List in the first place?

When the credit union was initially formed, there were a few board members and/or their colleagues who simply wouldn't visit a teller-they knew the president personally and would call the president's secretary to do a transfer for them.

"As the credit union grew, so did the number of 'special members,'" MacKinnon related. "So the credit union hired a full-time person to cater to the needs of special members, and that person was also the VP of operations and realized they were spending too much time with 60 'special members' so they created a position for 'executive services' and the A List was born."

While some credit unions might bemoan the A List, pointing out the democratic nature and mission of credit unions, MacKinnon noted that serving the overserved allows a credit union to grow and potentially reach out to the underserved and/or offer better rates, products and services to all of its members.

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