What's Behind UCCU's PFM Pricing Decision

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Personal financial management (PFM) just got profitable-and portable-at Unitus Community Credit Union here, as members pay $2 per month to use the online and mobile money-management tool.

"The nominal fee ensures that everyone who signs up for it is actually going to use it," explained , according to Laurie Kresl, VP-planning and business development at the $838-million credit union here. "We've had no complaints and not one member has dropped the service yet after the 30-day free trial."

PFM is normally provided free to members by CUs that offer the service.

Nearly 750 members are actively using Total Finance, Unitus Community CU's online and mobile PFM solution, which allows members to aggregate all their financial accounts at the Unitus online banking site, including accounts from competing institutions.

That adoption rate is more than 7% of the CU's total Internet banking enrollment, which not only covers the cost for the PFM tools but also generates "slight" revenue, said Kresl. Unitus began offering Total Finance in September via Geezeo's Online Financial Management (OFM) platform. Tolland, Conn.-based Geezeo provides OFM solutions to about a dozen CUs.

Member Interaction

Members can interact with Total Finance under the Internet banking login, and they can view their Total Finance personal dashboard, transactions and goals from the CU's new mobile banking applications and site. Whereas members can already transfer funds within the online Total Finance module, they'll soon be able to do the same within the mobile version, Kresl added.

Total Finance allows members of Unitus Community to categorize their expenses to create a daily calendar of their cash flow. From there, members can create spending budgets and alerts. The Total Finance dashboard shows members all account balances and transactions, a budget progress bar, top six expenses, and additional information designed to help members make better decisions.

Unitus was happy to allow members to aggregate competitor accounts under the Total Finance umbrella, Kresl suggested.

"Our most profitable members are online, and we want to see where there other accounts are. That gives us the opportunity to talk to the member about why our products may be better. If someone has a 14% Bank of America credit card, we can offer them a better rate."

Nearly half of the Total Finance members are creating cash flows, making it the most popular feature. And more than one quarter have set up a savings goal. The feature allows members to establish a goal; fund the goal with automatic or manual transfers; and track progress towards the goal.

Unitus is tracking member data in Total Finance and will soon put it to good use, Kresl continued.

"We see that members have 65 different checking accounts with BofA and 48 American Express cards. We're building campaigns to talk to these people about our products. We'll put up a banner ad about the Unitus credit card this month."

Pricing Decision

In an environment where credit unions are taking away free checking in order to generate fee income, Unitus made the decision from the get-go to charge members to use Total Finance, Kresl said.

"Charging up-front is better than reconsidering and adding the charge later. Everyone offers bill pay for free, and you end up paying for the people who sign up but don't use it."

December brought a flurry of activity to the Unitus online banking site and new mobile banking service, she said.

"Log-ins increased by 23%. I think that's because we launched mobile banking with Total Finance."

About 14% of the Unitus' membership uses online banking, said Kresl.

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