their membership, a study by an industry think tank found. People whose primary financial relationship is with a credit union give them high marks. But other members criticize credit unions' management, range of offerings, and convenience, the study concluded. And while most credit union members say they believe credit unions have the best loan and deposit rates, many still take their money elsewhere. "It is clear that credit unions are not adequately fulfilling the needs of members identifying other types of financial institutions as their primary financial institution," said the study, "Marketing Credit Union Services: The Role of Perceived Value." Its author, Peter M. Dacin, is an assistant professor of marketing at Texas A&M University. The 50-page study was published by the Filene Research Institute, Madison, Wis., which is affiliated with the Credit Union National Association. It was based on interviews with 1,000 credit union members and 509 nonmembers. The study's conclusions are disputed, but several industry officials and observers agree that, despite the sophistication of some institutions, the industry hasn't shed its mom-and-pop image. Monte M. Call, president of Goldenwest Credit Union, Ogden, Utah, said the industry has an image problem because many people are relatively ignorant of credit unions. "Because of tight fields of membership, many credit unions advertise only to their members," said Mr. Call, who is an adviser to the Filene Institute and whose $140 million-asset credit union is open to anyone who lives in Utah. "The general public as a whole doesn't get to hear the true story." Although 72% of members who deal primarily with a credit union said they believe the institutions are able to handle their financial needs, only 25% of other members agreed, the survey said. Only 7% of nonmembers said they believe a credit union could meet their financial needs. About 44% of the country's 68 million credit union members consider a credit union to be their primary financial institution, according to CUNA. Of the respondents in that category in the Filene study, 60% said they think the institutions have skilled, professional management, compared with 23% of other members and 12% of nonmembers, the paper said. Daniel C. Cumbee, president of $14 million-asset Dakotaland Federal Credit Union, Huron, S.D., said he wasn't surprised by the results. "We try not to be $500-suit professionals," said Mr. Cumbee. "The people we serve are blue collar, and I think they like that." Hardly any respondents said they thought credit unions were well located. Only 33% of primary members said credit unions were conveniently located; the number was 9% for other members. But Mr. Dacin argued that a credit union's hours of business matter more than its location, and the industry did better in this department. Sixty- two percent of primary members said credit unions have the most convenient hours, compared with 23% of other members. Some industry officials and observers objected to the study's findings. "I don't really know what to make of that," said Peter Seitz, chief executive of $700 million-asset BethPage (N.Y.) Federal Credit Union. He pointed out that about half the credit union's 70,000 members look to it as their primary financial institution, and 29,000 members have some form of direct deposit. "Why would they be here if they had problems with us?" he said. James Barth, a finance professor at Auburn University in Alabama, also had problems with the study. "If you look over the data of the last 30 years, you find banks have been losing market share," he said. "Credit unions have been able to increase their market share over the last 30 years, so it's hard to believe people would find them unattractive." But, he added, some people in the survey may only have been exposed to smaller, simpler credit unions. For example, Mr. Barth said Auburn Federal Credit Union, where he has a savings account, doesn't offer checking accounts. "Some people might give negative ratings to credit unions because the ones they use don't offer a lot of services," he said.
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