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Editor's Note: Due to overwhelming response to The Credit Union Journal's question to readers, "If you could say one thing to credit unions, what would it be?," we were unable to include all of the responses in the July 1 and July 15 issues. Additional responses appear below.

Relationships Remain The Key Point

If I could say one thing to the nation's credit unions, it would be that the "credit union difference" is, and always will be, based on the relationships we have with our members. This truly sets us apart from other financial providers. These relationships have made the credit union movement what it is today; and I believe it is not only the primary reason people turn to credit unions, it is also the key to our future.

"People helping people" is more than a way of doing business; it's the credit union way of life. Caring about members, and the relationship we have with them, is at the core of everything we do.

Credit unions behave differently because we think differently. The people, and the total relationship we have with them, are more important than anything else.

Credit unions are dedicated to improving the lives of people in our communities and neighborhoods. We are proud of that fact. Often a credit union offers the only affordable financial services in an under-served community. We look to the future by continuing with our vision, ideals and beliefs of social justice to the individual member, and to the communities we serve.

Joseph P. Herbst President/CEO

Empire Corporate FCU, Albany, N.Y.

Before Jumping Into CRM, Look First

"Well, all of the other kids are doing it." Did you ever find yourself telling your mother that? Or have you heard it from your own kids recently?

A great deal of attention today is being given to pushing organizations into a sales- focused environment. And for some of you, it may make sense. However, if you don't have clear goals, or understand where the profit will be gained or lost, then why invest in changing your entire business culture? For most of you, this is an area in which you should tread lightly.

Have you been exposed to these oft-used phrases? Measure twice, cut once. Let the buyer beware. Look before you leap. Before you jump into the pool of a sales and service CRM culture, please identify the specific goals you have and the ROI of any such solution. Embracing a sales and service culture has great appeal in theory. Many technology solutions are great in theory. But where's the broad proof of concept?

At our company, our challenge is not in finding prospects, but in finding prospects that understand the pitfalls and are ready to make the commitment from top to bottom with clear objectives in mind.

Jay Kassing, President

Centrax-MARQUIS, Plano, Texas

Joy, Wonderment-And Serious Concerns

I've worked with credit unions for 35 years, as an employee of a company that serves the credit union marketplace. As I reflect on those years, I do so with joy and wonderment about what credit unions stand for and what they have been able to accomplish. As I look ahead, it is not without some concern, however. To me, the strength of credit unions has always been the fact they are member-owned and that they typically do not compete with one another.

More frequently I see overlap and even duality of mega community charters. Credit unions increasingly compete for the same members. Ultimately, the consumer may benefit from having choices, but at what price to credit unions? It wasn't long ago that we had 24,000 credit unions in the U.S. Now we're down to 10,000 and anticipating a drop to 8,000 in the next few years. Today's credit unions are larger, more sophisticated and financially stronger. I would caution credit unions to keep their focus on serving the member. Bigger is only better if a member is a unique individual and not just an account number. Second, it is my hope that credit unions never lose the cooperative spirit."

John Edwards, Senior VP- Business Development

XP Systems, Moorpark, Calif.

Time To Celebrate Marketing!

There's a revolution happening!

But that's OK. Our country was founded on revolution. And now there's a revolution taking place inside the credit union walls.

With the growth of competition in the movement comes a greater reliance on the role of the marketing function. No longer can credit unions rely on the tactics of the past. The new tools to compete in today's marketplace include greater sophistication and complexity and an even greater corporate commitment to the marketing budgets required to generate results.

You'd be hard-pressed to name a consumer service company that has been successful in the 20th century without fully embracing the role of marketing. The days of a single product offering for the masses died with the model T. Think revolutionary.

Today, you must customize, regionalize, and personalize to ensure you're offering a better, more relevant service than the competition. In this era of widespread consumer choice and product availability, you must "SCREAM" to get your member's attention, yet deliver your services on a silver platter. And make your member's experience memorable.

In boardrooms throughout the country, plans, strategies, tactics and budgets are going to be evaluated in the coming months. Be bold and brave. Make your organization a leader not a follower, an innovator not an imitator, and a true value to those members that do business with you.

Celebrate the marketing revolution!

Mark DeBellis, VP-Marketing

PSB, Lake Forest, Calif.

Time To Redefine The CU Brand

I encourage credit unions to look at how they are branding themselves and how the member experience, at each touch point, either reflects or refracts the brand promise.

Credit unions have positioned themselves as an alternative to banks and have tried to capitalize on the "common bond" factor of membership. Focusing on deepening existing relationships and maximizing each member's value, while understanding the original need or needs which motivated the member to join the credit union, will continue to positively differentiate credit union membership.

Now is the time, with increased competition from a wide variety of financial organizations, for credit unions to define their brand, create a brand implementation strategy at the member level, and align all business units to fulfill the promise.

Anne Ivey, VP-Performance Improvement

Frontline Group/FTR, Lombard, Ill.

Don't Take Loyalty For Granted

Don't take your members and their loyalty for granted. The total market for borrowers is not growing to a great extent and thus, competitive lenders have necessarily targeted your members. Most of these competitive lenders are using technology to redefine service by providing "market-of-one" pricing, total loan fulfillment and even e-funding in seconds.

If you choose to ignore the Internet as an evolving channel, do so at your own peril. Financial institutions are now making significant investments to improve the Internet channel, knowing that future borrowers have a greater technical affinity and will flock to the Internet to receive comparable and/or better rates and service through that medium. Third- generation solutions are being rolled out today.

Investigate, implement and master the solutions to protect and grow your membership. Also, recognize that "leading-edge," robust technology is not only the tool of multi-billion-dollar financial institutions. Through ASP delivery, progressive, small-to-medium-sized credit unions are effectively utilizing loan origination technology today as strategic weapons to grow and maintain market share.

Steve Uffman, Chairman and CEO

APPRO Systems, Baton Rouge, La.

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