Credit Union Journal combed through the National Credit Union’s third-quarter call report data to find the CUs with the largest number of potential members — consumers who were eligible to join but hadn’t. We asked some of those CUs who are fishing in the biggest membership ponds to share how they amassed these fields of membership and how they plan to market them.
For more on open-charter CUs -- the cover story in CU Journal's February 2017 issue -- click here.
The top 10 CUs for potential membership growth
Here are the credit unions with the greatest potential for membership growth, according to the "Number of potential members" section (field 084) of third-quarter 2016 call reports. Credit Union Journal reached out to all 10, though not everyone agreed to take part in this special report.
Meet "Big Blue"
A ‘Big Blue’ engagement strategy
The old saw directs people who want to succeed to “fish where the fish are.” In the case of $3.1 billion Wescom Credit Union, it is “fishing” in one of the biggest ponds available – the seven counties comprising all of Southern California.
In spring 2016, Wescom launched a community advertising campaign called “Did You Know.” This campaign was designed to reach consumers within the CU’s service areas through targeted radio and out-of-home advertising. It promotes the advantages of banking with a credit union.
“In addition, we rolled out a mobile branch that we call Big Blue,” said Deena Otto, SVP of marketing and administration. “Big Blue is a self-contained financial center that we use for a variety of community events in Southern California, including UCLA football games. It helps our staff engage with potential members.”
We Florida Financial has a potential field of membership across 46 counties, but one credit union official says the institution believes there is still plenty of fresh growth potential close to home, for now.
“We are concentrated on Southeast Florida,” said Sandra Spence, VP of advertising and public relations at the Margate, Fla.-based credit union. “In 2017 we’re concentrating our efforts in this area because it’s a big population. There’s an expanding population down here and we think we still have plenty of untapped growth potential down here in the tri-county area.”
According to its third quarter 2016 call report, the credit union has nearly 17.7 million potential members in its field of membership, ranking it fifth among credit unions with the greatest number of potential members.
Ranking among the top ten in greatest potential for membership growth according to NCUA data, First Florida Credit Union in Jacksonville, Fla. is taking a two-pronged approach to managing growth.
According to CEO Brent Lister, the CU already has a physical presence in most of Florida’s biggest metropolitan areas, including Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee (Tampa is the major exception), and the CU’s recently implemented five-year strategic plan is focused on deepening relationships with existing members while also picking up new ones through social media and digital marketing.
“We’ve used partnerships as part of our growth strategy, and that has added branches and members in strategic areas,” he said. “Last year we merged Florida Baptist CU which was looking for a partner. It fit our model and our strategic plan, and we got almost 2,000 new members through that partnership …and those 2,000 new members already knew what a credit union was, so that’s super.”
That merger will also allow any member of a Baptist congregation in Florida to join the credit union.
Credit Union of Southern California has expanded from its beginnings as a schools credit union to serve three populous counties in Southern California. With a total of 15 million potential members to market to, CU SoCal is sixth on the list of credit unions with the greatest number of potential members.
The $1.1 billion institution currently is based in Anaheim, Calif., also known as the home of Disneyland. CEO Dave Gunderson said today it has a community charter and serves those who live, work, worship or attend school in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.
“Our strategies to achieve these goals were created with the idea of helping members find a way, not get in their way,” he said. “We plan to continue to build strong engagement anchored in a distinct, relevant brand promise, with our members, community business partners and the communities we serve.”
Sacramento, Calif.-based Golden 1 CU makes a major effort to distinguish itself from the competition.
“Consumers cannot choose us if they never learn who we are and why we are the better alternative,” said President and CEO Donna Bland. “We also are focused on building strong brand and product awareness in auto dealerships and the real estate market.”
Bland said the CU has and will continue to achieve growth through “ingenious and impactful” communications of Golden 1’s brand, product, service and value proposition. The credit union uses traditional, digital and social media to reach consumers.
“In the end, though, it is not just about growing the number of members,” Bland continued. “It is about deepening our relationships and providing our members the financial solutions they need, whenever and wherever they need it. In each of the markets we serve across California, we have developed various strategies to maximize opportunities and optimize results to serve our overall membership.”
Space Coast Credit Union added significantly to its footprint in 2009, when it merged with Eastern Florida Financial Credit Union, expanding its field of membership to 14 counties spanning Florida’s east coast – from Flagler County to Miami-Dade County.
Carmen Tapanes, director of retail services for the Miami-Dade region, told CU Journal the community-chartered Space Coast was not necessarily looking to expand its field of membership through the merger.
“We believe we have a great opportunity to leverage our extensive branch network to attract deposit growth through business members, by offering a competitive free business checking account, and a fast, convenient experience.”
Marketing strategy varies by area and product, Tapanes continued. In SCCU’s northern markets – where the CU enjoys strong brand awareness and market share – the focus is on retention. In Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which are heavily populated, the Space Coast CU brand is still “relatively unknown.” As such, the aim is “incremental” growth in brand awareness, using its “Members’ Watchdog” brand as a key point of differentiation.
Literally anyone in the country is eligible to join Long Island-based Bethpage FCU, thanks to a massive addition to its field of membership following the absorption of Montauk CU last year and its open charter.
But despite its new nationwide reach, Linda Armyn, SVP of corporate affairs at Bethpage, said the credit union isn’t planning to stray far from its roots.
“We’re sticking to Long Island,” said Armyn. “We’re not abandoning it in any way, shape or form. This is where our roots are.” The $6.9 billion-asset credit union also picked up a branch location in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood as a result of the merger, which Armyn said will also be a part of the membership expansion efforts when it begins promoting itself to residents in that area later this year.
Even if Bethpage isn’t tackling a cross-country growth strategy, it lists 324 million potential members on its latest Call Report – the entire U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Aryn differentiated between field of membership and growth strategy: While Bethpage’s FOM remains national, the current strategic growth focus is the Long Island area, she said in an email.
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