Single-Sponsor CU Gets Single-Minded About Capturing BIz

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Just because a credit union is still dedicated to a single sponsor doesn't mean it doesn't need to pay attention to business development.

Indeed, it needs to pay special attention to developing new business, according to one credit union that uses methods that are decidedly SEG-like.

At least that's the case with Vista FCU, which was chartered to serve Disney "castmembers"-Disney-ese for employees.

"The benefits to being a single-sponsor credit union is that you have a very strong affinity relationship," said Jim Kasch, director of marketing, business development and alternative delivery of Vista FCU. "For us, the bonus is that every single person we serve is tied to the Mouse."

But there are challenges, as well. "As the sponsor goes, so goes the credit union," Kasch explained, adding that when the CU's sponsor is a mega-corporation like Disney, sometimes the sponsor is part of your competition, and it can be difficult to track penetration and participation.

That's why Vista has broken Disney down into smaller business units, almost like SEGs. The CU also was able to add anyone "contractually related to Disney"-so now the Rainforest Caf? and Wolfgang Puck employees who work at restaurants on Disney sites are also eligible to join Vista.

"We've broken Disney down to 100 different units with separate business development plans for each one," Kasch noted. "And all Disney Stores and ESPN Zones, for example, are also in our field of membership. With a company this big, employees move around a lot, so we're trying to work with Disney to track everyone, using direct deposit as a means of monitoring that movement."

While Vista is very proud of its heritage, it's not ashamed to admit that it looks to banks for some decent ideas. "I'm tired of people putting banks down, because, let's face it, they must be doing a good job since they're still king of the block," he suggested. "So look at what they're doing and learn from them."

While it monitors banks, the credit union has also fond that its fiercest competition often comes from within.

"Our sponsor is also our competition," Kasch observed. "There's a BankOne Disney VISA card. They have special employee mortgage programs through Wells Fargo. The number of corporate sponsors Disney partners with is ridiculous, and those corporate sponsors give millions of dollars to Disney. Want to see who they are? Just check out the rides and exhibits at EPCOT Center. Like I said, they give millions of dollars to Disney; we don't."

That's where the importance of executive relationships come into play. And just as most top-dollar surgeons aren't joining healthcare credit unions thinking they're just for orderlies, senior executives often believe credit unions are only for hourly employees, noted Kasch.

Changing Mindsets

Seeking to change mindsets Vista leverages its annual report, turning it into a real showpiece that provides the opportunity to create "facetime" with top-level management. Vista's colorful annual report is distributed to more than just its members but also to non-member executives.

The CU also works hard to establish high-level meetings with executives from its sponsor. "When you run into a brick wall, check in with your board-surely some of them have an 'in' with senior executives," he advised.

Vista has established a Member Service Advisory Committee that it can also lean on for developing relations with influential people within the FOM and has developed marketing partnerships with various business units, allowing it to tie product and service promotions to new DVD releases and the like.

Much like First Entertainment CU's "A List" program (The CU Journal, March 22), Vista created an Account Executive program, which offers personal banking services for high-level management.

Another "in" Kasch said his CU has used is pet projects. By digging around to find out what projects or missions are near and dear to an influential executive's heart, the credit union can then develop that relationship by offering to sponsor things related to that project.

One such "pet project" lead to the creation of a calendar featuring original designs and artwork of all the Disney castles. The calendars are on sale on Disney property to the public, and the CU donates proceeds of the calendar sales to one of Disney's foundations. The top-level executive whose pet project this foundation is has been passing those calendars out to all the top executives like candy-and everyone of them as the credit union's brand on it.

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