CU Doing Business as "Financial Center"
By Mary S. Gilbert
May 8, 2002
This is bonus coverage from "Re-named, Re-charged" in the May 2002 issue of CUES' Credit Union Management.
The National Credit Union Administration recently issued an opinion to Finance Center Federal Credit Union (its legal name) permitting it to market its products and services under the auspices of the "Financial Center" (the CU's brand name).
The institution also received NCUA approval for a community charter, which states that anyone who lives, works, attends school or worships in Marion County, Indiana, is eligible for membership. With this approval, the CU can market its products and services directly to the consumer, making it a true competitor to area banks.
in January, all points of contact and marketing communicationsincluding
TV, radio, print ads, brochures, direct mail and billboardswith
current and new customers, vendors and the media began displaying this
new corporate identity: "Financial CenterYour source for financial
"We wanted to make a splash, but didn't want to be an aggressive, abrasive adversary against banks. We just wanted a safe reaffirmation of who we are," says David Parmerlee, VP/marketing operations for the $296 million credit union with 67,000 members and 158 FTEs. "Based on early returns, most of our customers are supportive, although with any change, no matter how beneficial, some won't like it.
"We're a full-service financial provider, and to properly position ourselves, we had to re-brand, reposition and remarket ourselves," he points out. "We faced three problems with our name: We had to neutralize any misconceptions about credit unions so we could drive business into our office to communicate our benefits; there were five words in our name; and we had the negative connotations of the word finance, in that people see it as high-rate mortgages, for example.
"The problem of name recognition is getting people to switch from their current financial services provider. You have to steal business from competitors for the most part. We had to convince them to come to us by getting rid of words like qualifying and applying, which pose a hurdle. We also had to downplay the word member. To a non-member, it sounds restrictive, so we use customer to attract new people."
Financial Center conducted a name awareness research study, which questioned customers' perceptions about banks and credit unions. The results helped the Financial Center to solidify its goals—to be a modern, full-service financial provider; possess the most modern technology with online account access as well as access though its branch and automated teller machine network; provide the best personal service; and offer favorable rates and fewer, less costly fees.
According to Parmerlee, the core element of a total brand concept is to market value-added services that enable customers to better manage their financial services.
"This year we want to solidify and stabilize the changes, to focus on the infrastructure to support our new world. We want to expand our geographic service area beyond Marion County and get into commercial businesses. We'll continue to grow in a healthy, controlled pace to keep costs low and return savings to our customers," he says.
Mary S. Gilbert is principal with Gilbert Group, Pittsburgh.