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Innovation coupled with proven results

Credit Union Journal’s Best Practices Awards program is a treasure trove of proven, results-driven strategies aimed at boosting growth, improving efficiency, cutting costs, enhancing member service, living the CU philosophy and driving revenue.

Just as important, they must be scalable and adaptable so readers can model their own programs off of these great ideas. This program is designed not to offer accolades to individuals but to recognize innovations that have shown real-world results.

Read on to learn 17 strategies that were developed and field tested by your colleagues that you can tailor for your own operation.
TruStone Financial’s Lyn-Lake Minneapolis branch, located minutes from downtime Minneapolis in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood.

TruStone Financial revs up auto lending

Credit union: TruStone Financial FCU

Location: Plymouth, Minn.

Assets: $1.2 billion

Category: Auto Loan Refinance

Nominated by: TruStone Financial

By transitioning its marketing and communications department to a “data-driven” marketing team, TruStone Financial Federal Credit Union has been able to increase its auto loan penetration rate.

THINKing pays off for TruChoice

Name: TruChoice Federal Credit Union

Assets: $119.3 million

Location: South Portland, Maine

Category: Process Improvement

Nominated by: TruChoice Federal Credit Union

TruChoice Federal Credit Union implemented a centralized approach to ensuring process improvement and internal efficiency with its THINK program. Carried out by the CU’s staff, known as TruCrew, THINK is an acronym for for:

· Take it to the Next Level: We want to go the extra mile to make things work better.
· Hours & Money: Does it make “cents?”
· Inquiry + Ideas= Innovation: We are the drivers of our success, not passengers!
· Not Your Grandma’s Processes: We want to succeed tomorrow, not just today.
· Keep An Open Mind: We embrace change as a vehicle toward progress.

With no budget, the TruCrew accepted ideas from all areas of the organization. More than 200 ideas were submitted and THINK has resulted in annual savings of $116,845, approximately 70 percent of which is in recurring expenses and 755 hours of work saved per year.
Hughes Federal Credit Union Manager Mary Burruel using a Verifast palm-biometric mouse to authenticate at her desk.

Hughes FCU adopts biometrics for increased efficiencies

Credit union: Hughes Federal Credit Union

Location: Tucson, Ariz.

Assets: $1.1 billion

Category: Biometrics

Nominated by: Fiserv

By implementing biometric authentication palm readers, Hughes Federal Credit Union employees respectively save roughly 15 minutes per day in login-related time.
Royal Credit Union’s Glen Kennison, VP Credit Risk Management (standing left), Julie Frey, VP Business Loan Operations and Services (seated) and David Thoe, VP Business Lending Manager.

How Royal CU boosted MBLs

Credit union: Royal CU

Location: Eau Claire, Wis.

Assets: $2 billion

Category: Member Business Lending

Nominated by: Baker Hill

The $2 billion Eau Claire, Wis.-based credit union is ranked sixth for highest volume of business loans for credit unions nationwide and currently maintains a $708 million business loan portfolio. In an effort to make loan applications easier, the CU turned to the Carmel, Ind.-based Baker Hill, a loan origination software and bank lending solutions firm. As a result of that partnership, the credit union has processed more thanl $35 million in MBLs through the platform.
Trevor and Sarah Ellefson with their daughter, Rylie, became ‘home sweet homeowners’ with a little help from Royal Credit Union.

Royal CU streamlines mortgage process

Credit union: Royal CU

Location: Eau Claire, Wis.

Assets: $2 billion

Category: Loan Processing

Nominated by: Self

With a significant number of new loans sold to Fannie Mae each year, Royal Credit Union’s employees began to voice concerns about the increasing complexity in the Fannie Mae guidelines, which made the home loan process time consuming and cumbersome. Working in concert with Fannie Mae, however, the credit union streamlined processes and increased efficiencies to the point where it can process an additional 27 loans per month. The number of loans sold to Fannie Mae has also risen by 43 percent.
A TruChoice Federal Credit Union employee, right, poses with a member while showing off a sign detailing how much the member saved on a car loan.

SMILE, you're a member of TruChoice FCU

Name: TruChoice Federal Credit Union

Assets: $119.3 million

Location: South Portland, Maine

Category: Member Service

Nominated by: Self

The credit union's member service program is emphased by its name -- SMILE, an acronym that summarizes the member service standards of the organization and helps it live up to its brand promise to bank simply. The acronym stands for:

· Show Enthusiasm: Believe in the value TruChoice offers.
· Make Life Easier: We’re here to help people untangle their finances.
· Invite Them to Share: Find out what matters to them—what are their goals?
· Let Them Know You Care: Show them we are a partner, not just their banker.
· Exceed Expectations: Win their hearts and minds. Follow up and follow through.
Tech CU CEO Todd Harris, pictured with his two sons. The credit union’s Family Banking product was Harris’ idea based on his wanting a better way to interact financially with his kids.

Banking is all in the family for Tech CU

Name: Technology CU

Assets: $2.4 billion

Location: San Jose, Calif.

Category: Family Banking

Nominated by: Self

Tech CU developed Family Banking, which launched in May 2016. The product is designed to simplify financial transactions between family members by allowing both a parent and child to link their accounts, transfer money, track balances and monitor transactions – all at no charge.
Marketing for Technology Credit Union's in-house credit card program
664-06269246 © Masterfile Royalty-Free Model Release: Yes Property Release: Yes Customer Giving Clerk Credit Card

Tech CU takes card program in-house

Name: Technology CU

Assets: $2.4 billion

Location: San Jose, Calif.

Category: In-House Credit Cards

Nominated by: Self

In August 2016, Tech CU began offering in-house credit cards. Based on member feedback and research, the management team knew more than half of American consumers hold their main credit card with their primary financial institution. Although many members use Tech CU as their PFI, the lack of a credit card component was perceived as an “inconvenience.”

By offering an in-house card, Tech CU said, it became possible to give members a snapshot of all of their finances in one place, including deposits, loans and credit cards. The new program also simplified paying balances online or in-branch – something members could not do through the third party – and categorizing credit card expenditures, and widened the breadth and depth of Tech CU’s product offerings.
Members of the Northrop Grumman FCU lending team.

How Northrup Grumman boosted loans

Credit union: Northrop Grumman FCU

Assets: $1.1 billion

Location: Gardena, Calif.

Category: Loan Origination

Nominated by: LSI

While Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union’s members were receiving communication that their loans were approved, there was a gap connecting members to loan processors.

Since adopting LSI's Hot Transfer program, the CU’s loan approval percentage have risen from 62 percent in 2016 to 66 percent at the end of the first quarter in 2017. A 12-point increase in used auto loan approval (from 42 percent to 54 percent) was also realized.
A Direct Federal Credit Union employee using the DirectThinker app at a kiosk.

Direct FCU ask staff for input

Credit union: Direct FCU

Location: Needham, Mass.

Assets: $580 million

Category: Custom App for Employees

Nominated by: Self

In an effort to engage employees, Direct Federal Credit Union developed DirectThinker, an app that allows employees to submit ideas on how business operations could be improved. To date, 143 ideas have been submitted by more than 50 percent of staff.
Financial Resources FCU introduces promotional themes every four to six weeks. Each branch creates its own theme and then decorates, introduces associated tag lines and looks to tie into the featured giveaway or product.

Financial Resources FCU's membership boost

Credit union: Financial Resources Federal Credit Union
Location: Bridgewater, N.J.
Assets: $453 million
Category: Membership Growth
Nominated by: Haberfeld Associates

By implementing member acquisition strategies targeted at checking and loan relationships, Financial Resources Federal Credit Union increased its core membership growth significantly.
PSCU Vice President of Information Technology Carlos Vazquez

How Public Service CU improved its cybersecurity efforts

Credit union: Public Service CU

Location: Lone Tree, Colo.

Assets: $1.8 billion

Category: Cybersecurity

Nominated by: DefenseStorm

When approaching security analytics and incident response, Public Service Credit Union faced various challenges with resources, such as log retention, data storage, administration/management and a designated FTE to perform required duties.

“We needed a solution that made sense for our environment, satisfied our requirements, addressed our challenges, but also enhanced our capabilities,” said PSCU Vice President of Information Technology Carlos Vazquez (pictured above).

The $1.8 billion Lone Tree, Colo.-based PSCU turned to DefenseStorm, a cloud-based cybersecurity solutions firm in Seattle. In addition to proactive monitoring, Vazquez explained that DefenseStorm provides access to real-time threat intelligence, which allows PSCU to conduct timely forensic analysis.
Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union opened this updated branch in early 2017, which combines the familiar and traditional teller area with a self-service tablet station.

Nutmeg State's core conversion and RDC boost

Name: Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union
Location: Rocky Hill, Conn.
Assets: $425 million
Category: Digital Strategy
Nominated by: Alogent

As part of a three-year strategic plan to modernize delivery and service levels, Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union added a new core system and digital banking platform, which has increased mobile adoption rates significantly and doubled its remote deposit capture (RDC) channel intake.
Greater Nevada CU won the 2016 Lender of the Year award from Louisiana Economic Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the CU’s role in supporting small businesses and Louisiana’s economy.

Greater Nevada's business lending program

Name: Greater Nevada CU

Assets: $729 million

Location: Carson City, Nev.

Category: Small Business Lending

Nominated by: Self

The $729 million CU, based in Carson City, Nev., has an award-winning small business lending program that is booking loans in Louisiana – a state that is far from Nevada’s deserts and mountains in nearly every way.

Greater Nevada Credit Union has had a great deal of success participating in a lending program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Not only did the USDA program grow Greater Nevada’s loan portfolio, the CU said it controlled risk because the USDA typically guarantees up to 80% of the loan. The loans are revenue generators, GNCU added, carrying interest rates between 5 percent and 6 percent.
Knoxville Teachers FCU now offers e-signature capabilities on loans, meaning members visit the branch significantly less often.

Knoxville Teachers FCU's e-signature platform

Name: Knoxville Teachers Federal Credit Union

Assets: $206 million

HQ location: Knoxville, Tenn.

Category: Remote Lending

Nominated by: IMM, Rahway, N.J.

In order to compete better in an area with a limited membership pool (local educators), the $206 million Knoxville Teachers Federal Credit Union of Knoxville, Tenn., created an end-to-end loan application that can be accessed, completed and signed by members from any location, at any time of day.

For more information, click here.
Coastal FCU’s personal teller machines use video tellers to better serve members even when the branch isn’t staffed.

Coastal FCU's remote teller system

Name: Coastal Federal Credit Union

Assets: $2.9 billion

Location: Raleigh, N.C.

Category: Branch Management

Nominated by: La Macchia Group, Milwaukee, Wis.

Six years ago, Coastal Federal Credit Union embraced video-based personal teller machines to reduce personnel needs at its branches while maintaining face-to-face interactions through advanced technology.

Adoption of video tellers across the organization has allowed Coastal to increase available teller hours by 86 percent. The technology has also helped the credit union serve members with 40 percent less staff than branches with traditional over-the-counter tellers. These innovations have also led to more members and shorter lines -- a very happy combination for the credit union. Coastal’s Teller Transaction Score on the Net Promoter Survey has consistently been above 70 percent throughout 2017. The Carrboro branch specifically has nearly quadrupled its membership, from 485 at the end of Oct. 2016 to 1,660 at the end of June 2017. Between June 2016 and June 2017, the number of deposits at the branch tripled.

For more information, click here.
Advantage One Credit Union CEO Chris Corkery

Advantage One boosts loans by 20 percent

Name: Advantage One Credit Union

Location: Brownsville, Mich.

Assets: $142 million

Category: Sales & Service

Nominated by: cuStrategies

With a two-pronged approach, Advantage One Credit Union has helped members manage their financial well-being and gain access to low-interest loans, all while growing the credit union’s bottom line.

“We are not in the business of adding more debt to people who come to us,” said Advantage One CEO Chris Corkery (pictured above). “We are looking for ways to lower their monthly payments on loans they have with other financial institutions and help them reduce their debt.”

As a result of the a lending program, the credit union experienced 26 percent loan growth in 2015 and over 20 percent loan growth in 2016 with its ROA increasing during that timeframe, noted Corkery.