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Credit Union : NORLARCO CU

Nominated by: Inficorp, Atlanta

Nominated For: Management of its Card Program

A few years ago, NORLARCO Credit Union found itself in an unenviable and uncompetitive position.

The $280-million credit union had been offering a plain vanilla Visa card program since the 1980s. NORLARCO's Classic and Gold Visa cards offered pretty standard rates and terms and the Gold Card even carried a 1% rebate feature and an adjustable rate based on the prime rate.

Competition Heats Up

But as the card market began to heat up, NORLARCO's once-standard program no longer proved to be competitive, says Bryan Thomas, the credit union's operations support manager and special projects coordinator.

"We realized our marketing efforts had fallen behind and we were no longer competitive in our fees and rates," says Thomas. "Our return on assets for the program was low and its growth stagnant."

NORLARCO could always scrap what Thomas describes as the credit union's "step-child program" and concentrate on other in-house initiatives, such as home equity lending and bundled checking, two programs that were taking off at the time.

Instead, the credit union contracted with InfiCorp, the Atlanta-based credit card services vendor, to bring its program in line with an increasingly more competitive marketplace.

NORLARCO, which holds a community charter and serves a sophisticated, high-tech and educational market in Fort Collins and the surrounding area, decided to take its program to the Internet and make applying for and using its Visa cards easier and more effective than it had been in the past, says Thomas.

The credit union ramped up its credit card marketing and service efforts and broadened the program.

Program Goes Platinum

In addition to the Visa Classic and Gold programs, NORLARCO now also offers a Platinum card for its higher balance members. Through InfiCorp, the credit union was able to access the Rewards Passport Program, which offered rebates up to 2% on purchases, airline mileage and points redeemable for home improvement merchandise and appliances.

"InfiCorp understands the credit union philosophy, which makes the whole program better for us," says Thomas. The fact that the Georgia-based firm also operates on a First Data system like NORLARCO made the transition seamless for members, he says.

Best of all, the program's on-line application and reporting feature helped the credit union in its efforts to migrate members from traditional face-to-face transaction methods to an electronic environment designed to increase service capabilities for members and reduce credit union operating costs.

The tech-savvy nature of NORLARCO's membership gave the credit union a jump on much of the competition in the move to online five years ago, Thomas says. "We now assess a fee for members who want to do routine transactions at the branch," he says.

The credit union's emphasis on electronics well matched the InfiCorp program's capabilities and positioned what had been NORLARCO's step-child as one of the credit union's better yielding portfolios.

"There's no way we'd abandon the program now," says Thomas. "The program's on-line nature was easy for members to understand and use and matched our administrative needs. And that made us competitive once again."

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