Now that they have won over lawmakers, Washington-area credit unions are turning their attention to winning customers.
Credit unions in Maryland and the District of Columbia spent upward of $100,000 on an advertising supplement that ran last week in the region's two largest newspapers.
The 20-page supplement, titled "Credit Unions, Financial Partners for Life," was intended to introduce credit union services to consumers, said Robert E. Steil, president of the Maryland Credit Union League. It featured articles written by credit union executives on issues ranging from mortgages to technology to credit reports to, of course, banks.
"Despite all that we try to do, there are still a number of people out there that don't know what credit unions are, that we aren't a labor union or a credit reporting service," Mr. Steil said.
Some banking representatives were angered by the supplement, which ran in the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. They said passages claiming banks waged a "massive attack on credit unions" because they did not want to compete with an "alternative that put the needs of consumers first" reopened wounds they have been trying to heal since President Clinton signed the Credit Union Membership Access act in August.
"It seems credit unions don't know how to accept victory, and that is unfortunate," said Ron Ence, director of legislative affairs for the Independent Bankers Association of America.
John B. Bowers Jr., head of the Maryland Bankers Association, said that, in his opinion, the supplement bolstered the banking industry's argument that credit unions do not deserve special treatment.
"They have presented themselves as full-service financial institutions, serving a broad base with little to no bond," he said. "That's exactly what the banks said they were."
Mr. Steil, for his part, insisted that his group was not trying to rub it in.
"The issue has always been about consumer choice," he said, "and what we are doing is showing consumers that they do indeed have a choice."