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This issue, Credit Union Journal’s Best Practices issue, seeks to be a Best Practice itself.


In every issue this publication strives to live up to the motto you see displayed on our front page, “The Newsweekly For Growth-Oriented Credit Unions.”


If your credit union (or company, for that matter) isn’t growth-oriented, well, we wish you luck and ask only that you pay for that Journal subscription in advance with cash, if you don’t mind. For the rest of you, those that plan to stick around for a while, we bring you an issue featuring best practices of all kinds and from credit unions of all asset sizes, as selected by Credit Union Journal’s editorial team. 


Each year when we call for entries for our Best Practices issue we stress that we aren’t seeking pie-in-the-sky theories, we’re just looking for the basic pie pan itself and a few proven recipes for filling it.


Turns out, credit unions have been baking up quite a bit, including:


• In Utah, Mountain America Credit Union has found success in mitigating fraud, especially in lending, while noting fraud can never be eliminated completely unless a 0% loan-to-share ratio is in your strategic plan.


• This Best Practices Special Report features a number of credit unions that have found ways to make more loans, including Diamond Credit Union, which got very, very specific with a careful focus on each loan category with marketing, goals and training. “We embarked upon a lending roadmap—an all-encompassing lending plan,” explained CEO John Faust. Who needs a GPS when you have this kind of roadmap? Diamond reports it saw 9% loan growth across multiple categories in the first half of this year.


• KONE Federal Credit Union is in Moline, Ill. And that’s a bit of a problem, as many of its members are not. KFCU is a throwback credit union, serving primarily employees of a single sponsor with limited locations. That model was swell through the 1950s, but as every small CU knows all too well, consumers want a branch on every corner and an ATM in their driveway. KONE Federal has turned to shared branching with strong results.


• When a credit union has “entertainment” in its name, it’s probably no surprise that sponsorship of a series of concerts has helped it to build awareness. In this case it’s First Entertainment CU in Hollywood, Calif., which used a series of music events in Santa Clarita, Calif. to both new auto loans and new members.


Getting Fiscally Fit


• Every mortgage lender knows just how cyclical that business is; many have been riding the down cycle for some time. But in many markets mortgage lending is headed back upstairs. Seeking to avoid overstaffing again, Fresno County CU has turned to a CUSO to help it maintain service volumes while cutting expenses.


• Go through channels on your TV  long enough and you’ll find a reality show featuring someone losing weight or improving their life. Not to be outdone, Xceed Financial CU launched its own “Fiscal Fitness Challenge” that followed four people as they worked to achieve financial goals.  And in the process XFCU didn’t lose weight; it happily gained it in the form of new members.


• Often, you just have to know what works. In Appleton, Wis. they do. Fox Communities CU has given a big boost to card balances and transaction volumes by giving away a precious commodity in northern Wisconsin: tickets to a Green Bay

Packers game.


• Every week Credit Union Journal fills two or more pages with news of CUs’ good works in their communities. Too often that news stays within the CU community. But not in Indiana, where 25 participating CUs have created a web-based

community service aggregator that tracks the work being done and the dollars being donated.  Good deeds are good; making sure people know about them is even better.


• Many CUs put up a Christmas tree in their lobbies. Then there’s the light show put on at one of Streator Onized CU’s branches that gets the attention of everyone in its Illinois market, which is not just a gift to the community but to itself, as well.


• PC problems? Who hasn’t had them. You can take your PC to the geeks or, better yet, bring the geeks to the member. That’s what GTE Financial has done with its Techs on Tour promo, one of the best ideas I’ve seen in some time.


• Marketing is always a tentative and fragile line item in the budgets of many small CUs. Upper Cumberland CU in Tennessee committed to spending marketing dollars, and now it’s tripled ROA.


* Mention low-income communities and breweries and many will think only a target market for a cold one. But Brewery CU has reached beyond its original sponsor group to serve people who need the CU a lot more than they need the beverage.


• CU annual meetings are typically as well-attended as optional Saturday detention in high school. But Spire FCU has found a way to get more than 1,000 people to attend.


These ideas and others can be found in this issue and next of Credit Union Journal. To be sure, we don’t limit Best Practices to just these two issues and we welcome your ideas and suggestions at any time. After all, collaboration and sharing are all credit unions’ best practice.


Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.


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