The Sky Isn't The Limit For SEGs

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For 70 years Alliant CU faithfully served a rather narrow membership as the credit union for United Airlines.

In very little time, it has developed an expertise in adding and serving other groups.

In 2004 the former United Airlines Employees CU changed its name, in part because its sponsor company had filed for bankruptcy protection and some members questioned the financial strength of the credit union. With the name change also came a new focus on reaching out to new groups providing they met the criteria it was seeking. With its namesake sponsor in bankruptcy, members and the public were starting to wonder if the CU was in good financial shape.

Among the new groups that are now served by Alliant are 1-800Flowers, the U.S. Tennis Association, the National PTA (six million members), the California CPA and, effective May 1, the 55,000 employees of printer RR Donnelley. Alliant CU Director of Business Development Judy Whitcomb said 104 SEGs have been added during the past two and a half years, and 15,000 new members have also signed on.

Whitcomb said a primary goal of Alliant in selecting SEGs is the company must see the credit union as not as just another vendor but as an integral employee benefit that provides a wide array of financial services and products.

"Any credit union is a good choice for an employer," Whitcomb told the conference. "We just need to let them know it."

Internally, Whitcomb acknowledged the SEGs have meant organizational structural changes and that it has moved to hiring for sales and service talents vs. just product knowledge. It keeps employees engaged through a relationship with the Gallup Organization.

Whitcomb told The Credit Union Journal's Best Practices conference she has used her background in human relations to cultivate media and professional awareness through stories in magazines and through HR event sponsorship. It has also advertised in publications aimed at HR professionals.

Responding to audience questions regarding member interaction with so many locations at airports around the nation, Whitcomb stressed that Alliant members primarily use the telephone or electronic means to communicate with the CU.

"We don't offer branch convenience. We offer great rates," she said, noting that 80% of its members never visit a branch.

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