Thursday, January 31, 2008

Old Doesn't Necessarily Mean Un-cool

My Dad, who loves to take "cheap" older cars and tinker with them, just bought a '93 Audi. Its an alright looking car. It's got a 6 cylinder engine, and has no rust, but in its current condition it isn't something somebody my age would dream of driving.

We all know that credit unions are an old institution. Unfortunately we are that early 90's kind of old (hey, that's old to me!). The good news is that there are updates and modifications that can be done to both that car and the credit union that can make it something I would proudly drive.

If the body is in good condition, keep it.

The body of this '93 Audi is in great condition; no dents, scratches, or rust.

Consider the body work like the foundation of the credit union.

It is the basic, non-profit, democratic structure of the institution. There's nothing wrong with the basic structure of the credit union, so there is no need to change it. A bit of polish and a few minor modifications never hurt though.


Do a few modifications under the hood.

Lighter pistons, bigger fuel injectors, a new intake; all of these things can make the car a bit faster. Fast is good.

The engine of the credit union is the process of moving people into the institution.

Streamline the application process. Create an online system that is simple and quick, but also robust. The faster somebody can get into an account, get things set up the way they want them, and access that account the better. Like I said, fast is good, Especially for young people.

Add an updated stereo system.

Tunes are an important part of my driving experience. No matter how nice a car, the first thing I'm going to look for is the stereo. Does it have XM or Sirius? Can I plug in my iPod? How loud is it?

The stereo of your credit union is your set of products and services.

Most places offer the "stock stereo" of financial products. CD's, savings accounts, checking accounts, and loans. If you're looking to attract a younger crowd you need something better. Create products that are loud, that are different, and (most importantly) very functional.

Whatever you do, don't just slap a spoiler on the back!hugespoiler

We've all seen them. People who drive around in a stock Honda Civic with a 3 foot wing on the back. Don't let that be you.

The problem with this is that you're trying to look cool without anything to back that up. If you're going to put a giant wing on the back, you better have something under the hood that warrants that extra down-force. Unless you've got an F1 engine sitting in there, having a giant spoiler only makes you look stupid.

So, whatever you do, don't just put out ads that tout yourself as a cool institution without the products, services, and functionality that warrant that image. You aren't going to convince Generation Y that you are cool, you have to BE cool and let them decide.

So, don't think it takes a complete dismantling of your institution to make it something attractive to a younger crowd. It just takes some shifting to make yourself relevant. If done right, you can take something old and create something cool.

As long as its not a late 80's/early 90's Mustang...they have no hope. 90_MustangGT_Pic

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Case Study, Not a Silver Bullet

Larissa and her YouTube video are tearing across the credit union blogosphere. So, in an effort to keep it moving I posted it on a technology forum I belong to. Unfortunately the first response it got was "yeah well, that unpaid board of directors at my credit union decided they wanted to get paid the big bucks. They just switched to a bank."



For the past few months I've been in this little glass box of credit union evangelists. I like being in the box. This is where the people who I believe understand the movement are. Unfortunately, in the process I've lost touch a bit with how some people view credit unions, and how some credit unions are losing touch with the movement itself.

It truly is too bad that a few credit unions are losing sight of the movement and becoming so enveloped by income and growth. These few credit unions that are "straying" from their original mission are skewing many peoples opinion of an incredible movement dedicated to the people it serves. These places are the reason a national branding campaign would fail in my opinion. Your mission is your brand, and if you are going to claim that all credit unions function in a certain way, you'd best be sure they do.

As soon as Larissa unleashed her video, talk started flying around about how it was the answer to everybody's membership woes. I'll even admit that as soon as I saw it, my first thought was "this is it, this is what we need to get droves of young people to join credit unions!" Its a good thing there are people like The CU Skeptic and my e-friend to keep me in line.

I've thought a lot over the weekend about how this video could be used for credit unions. At first I was whole heartedly onboard the re-edit-instant-national-ad-campaign bandwagon.

Then I realized that after all my talk about how credit unions need to look at their membership and potential membership, find out what they are looking for, and create products for them, taking Larissa's video and using it as a cookie cutter ad for credit unions is not the way to go.

Larissa's video is not the answer to our individual problems, it is a case study in how to be different. It teaches us what can come from reaching out to the community for talent and passion. It shows us what it takes to look at your target audience and deliver something that they find interesting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Credit Unions are like Macs

With the recent MacWorld Expo and lots of my CU twitter peeps going mac evangelist, it occurred to me that the position the credit union movement is in isn't that far from where Mac was a few years ago. I put together a quick comparison to illustrate what I mean.

Microsoft Windows Banks
Most commonly used operating system on personal and business computers
Most commonly used institution for saving and lending
Bloated and filled with policies that tend to slow down use more than facilitate it
Filled with fine print, hidden fees, and policies that tend to hinder the customer's ability to save
Lots of games (its the only reason I've stuck with windows to be honest)
Lots of free giveaways to entice customers to open an account
People use windows because it comes installed on nearly every computer
People use banks because they are on every street corner and are more active in advertising

Macs Credit Unions
Small market share, but growing
Small market share, but growing
Easy to use interface, great tools for getting work done
Lots of free services and many CU's offer better rates and lower fees
In the iMac days, they struggled with being relevant and cool
Credit Unions are struggling to be relevant and cool

When people get a Mac, they tend to be very loyal and tell others about the benefits
When people realize what a credit union is and what they stand for, they tend to be very loyal and tell others about the benefits

Mac is taking off, people are using them at an ever increasing rate. They have found a way to appeal to young people with slick looking machines, a great interface, and by doing things different than they have before. Mac is changing the way people compute, especially on the mobile front.

If credit unions are going to pull a "Mac" and become relevant we need to do something different and interesting to show people what we are. We need to change the way people think of a financial institution.

Take the Young & Free program from Common Wealth CU in Alberta, Canada. Larrisa Walkiw, who is the spokesperson for the program, created this great video to educate people on the difference between banks and credit unions.

Its different, interesting, funny, and informative. We should all take a lesson from Common Wealth CU's approach to being different and relevant, especially to the Generation Y crowd.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Your Front Page as Your Front Line

I'd like to start this by comparing two interactions between member and credit union.

The traditional branch user, and the digital user.

*please note that these situations are purely hypothetical.

Jane has been a member of Maine State CU since 1963. She has seen many faces come and go on the teller line, but still enjoys getting to know the new folks. When she walks into the lobby she always expects a friendly face to great her at the teller line and hasn't been disappointed yet.

On this particular Thursday however, she is greeted with a scowl, unconvincingly forced into a sliver of a smirk. This new teller finishes writing something on a pad of paper before even looking up to notice Jane and utter a blunt "can I help you?" Jane, being very sensitive to the way she is treated, walks out the door and closes her account. Extreme, I know, but people can be.


Joe just opened his account with Maine State CU. The branch was impressive (huge and a bit intimidating in a way), but he prefers to do his banking online.

Judging by the impressiveness of the branch itself he visits expecting an equally impressive web site. Instead he is met by an outdated site with outdated info. He finds it nearly impossible to navigate to the information he is looking for and it isn't immediately apparent where he needs to click to access the online banking system. He gets fed up with the site, closes his account and opens one with ING Direct.

As we move further into the digital age, more and more people are coming to view your web page as their first line of interaction with the institution. People expect a clean, updated, easy to navigate site nearly as much as they expect to find a friendly face and knowledgeable staff at the physical branch.

The front page is the new front line. Will online service ever replace face to face interaction? I doubt it, but its a matter of what people expect to find when they visit the institution that deals with their money; be it online, or on the teller line.

P.S. We'll be getting a new web site for in the near future!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Alleviating the E-Fear: Educating Members on Safe Browsing

When I first started this blog, the IT department here at Maine State CU had a bet on when I would get a virus on an open connection. They gave me a week before my box got infected. Guess what? I have yet to get a virus, and probably won't (knock on wood).

It is IT's job to keep viruses out of the credit union's network, so they are inherently apprehensive about letting employees access the open Internet from their computers at work. There are security risks out there, but most of them can be avoided with a few safe browsing practices.


When you access the Internet it is a lot like traveling to a large city. The largest in the word actually. There are beautiful, stunning, and informative places to visit, but there's a fair share of shady neighborhoods as well. You wouldn't visit NYC without knowing where those areas are, why would you blindly navigate the e-roadway without a knowledge of were you can trust and where you can't.

You shouldn't let your members and employees go blindly into this new frontier. It is our job to protect their financial and personal information, regardless of the medium. We should be giving them a roadmap for this e-city so they can navigate it more safely and effectively.

I grew up in this electronic "city" and have wound up in some of those shady neighborhoods. I know full well the dangers there. Those of us who know the roads should be passing on that knowledge to the people looking to come visit. There is a need for an "Internet Guide Book" to lead members and employees to the roads they'd like to be on and avoid the roads that lead to unfriendly territory.

Education is the best alternative to locking your connection down. Why are we limiting our employees' access to great tools to connect, inform, and educate members? The answer is fear, but this fear should end with a good firewall, anti-virus, and education. Firewalls and anti-virus programs should be a back-up just in case...not the front line. There is no replacement for knowledge of the e-landscape.

I just wanted to share a few of the practices I live by in my day-to-day browsing of the Internet. They seem like common sense, but maybe it will help somebody.

-Your first search for a product or web site should be asking somebody you know in real life...not Google. Google is a great resource and you can find many great sites through it, but you are still visiting a random site you've probably never heard of when you click a link from the search page. Find a nerdy friend of yours and ask them where you can find that curry recipe you are looking for. If they don't have an answer, Google away and just be sure your anti-virus is running and up to date.

This is especially important if you are looking to purchase something or are asked to enter personal information. Know who you are giving your info and card number to. Ask around and see if anybody else has had experience with the site or product.

I'm not saying you WILL get a virus because you Googled for something, just that it runs a higher risk than a personal reference to the site.

-Don't accept a friend request from somebody you don't know. There are lots of exploits floating around Myspace these days and the best way to avoid them is to...well...avoid them. If some random (yet attractive) woman you've never met or heard of wants to be your friend, ignore it. Social networking is about connecting your social circle, not making a collection of "friends" so you can brag about how many you have.

Don't Download anything if you don't know where it is coming from. There is nothing wrong with downloading a widget here and a program there, but do it smart. Know the sites you can trust and don't accept a download you didn't intend to start. If you have any doubts, scan the file before you do anything with it. Oh, and never download a free screen saver you found in a banner ad.

-Speaking of Banner ads, use Firefox and install adBlock and NoScript. Not only will it save you from a possible infection, but it also rids your entire browsing experience of nearly all advertising. It will also block most automatic scripts unless you allow it on pages such as home banking or any other trusted site.

Those few things (along with knowledge of the landscape and a good anti-virus) have kept me virus free for years. Stay aware of your e-surroundings and you'll keep yourself out of trouble.

I'd love to start a program here at MSCU that is all about educating members on the web, its uses, and how to stay safe there. Do any of your Credit Unions run this kind of program?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Cause Oriented Credit Union


Ben Rogers from The Filene Research Institute posted a comment on this post asking what XYZ credit union could do to be more cause oriented. It got me thinking, what does it take to be cause oriented?

Consider your cause the way you would your brand. In fact, as a credit union, our cause should be a major part of our brand image. The best way to draw people in is to show how you are different from a bank; rate and fee changes aren't going to do that.

The first step in being cause oriented is to figure out who it is you serve. Do you serve a certain business/industry or do you serve a geographic location? You might not think it makes that big a difference, but different demographics require tailored products, services, and community involvement efforts.

marketresearch22 Once you know who exactly you are serving it comes down to knowing what they want to see. After all, we are serving them, not the other way around. Talk to people, ask questions, find out how they are "wired". Do they want to see you offering small business support, beautifying the area, offering loans to people who can't get them at a bank, or taking care of a homeless problem in their community.

Once you have that information, change is required. What use is collecting all this information if you just say you support your field of membership without actually shifting your position to serve those people. It isn't just a numbers game (although in the financial industry it always comes down to that) it is a creative process to create products, programs, and events tailored to your members and potential members.

Be a catalyst for change and people will join you because they support what you believe in. An advocate for a cause will have a much more meaningful, involved and *cough*"profitable"*cough* relationship with your institution than somebody who joined to get a free gift. That isn't to say there isn't a place for free stuff, but it shouldn't be the only reason people come through your credit union's door.

Don't be afraid to be different, that's kind of the point here. If you do something different in a way people can see, it will draw more eyes to your cause and, in turn, to your credit union. There will always be a place for touting high deposit rates or low auto loan rates, but that isn't going to make people say, "ohhh so that's what the credit union movement is, that's awesome! I want to be a part of that!" When people start talking that way, you know you've done your job as a cause oriented institution.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A New Generation of Employees

There seem to be two separate opinions on young workers. One group sees Generation Y employees as a liability with their low work ethic and poor communication skills. The other group sees an infusion of new ideas and technology into their workplaces.

Regardless of how you feel about Generation Y and their work ethic, They are becoming the new workforce and at some point you'll need to worry about attracting and keeping these young employees.

Can you guess the first question we ask a friend who just got a new job? If you said "how much do you get paid?" you'd be wrong. Usually the question is "do you get insurance?" There are so many of my friends struggling because they can't afford to get sick. They make nearly as much as I do as a teller, but because they have no benefits they are constantly in fear of expensive medical problems. A good benefits package is as, or more, important than wages.

Generation Y is very aware of their ability to change things. We got tired of spending $20 for a CD, so we downloaded it online. We were tired of waiting for our favorite shows to come on, so we posted them on YouTube. Now major TV networks broadcast their shows in full over the Internet and iTunes lets you buy the one song you want off a cd for $1. We know that if we don't like the way something works we can usually find some way to do it better on our own. Its very important to create a working environment where that feeling of change is also present.

It is very uncomfortable to be locked in a hierarchy where the young, low-level employees are afraid to bring things to upper management. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking to management and they will give you a stream of new ideas. If we aren't able to affect change, we'll probably go someplace else where we can.

Here at MSCU we have a yearly meeting with the President and Vice president where they explain their plans for the year and give people the opportunity to directly ask them questions and suggest things. Its a start, but it Generation Y is looking for instant feedback and prompt action. Its what we've known all our lives.

As a Credit Union, we have a built in advantage to appealing to Generation Y workers. If you present your institution as part of a bigger movement (which it is) we will be more apt to work hard to be a part of it. Be altruistic, show that you aren't just another big corporation looking to make money off of the general public and do it early in an employees training.

One of the reasons I love doing this blog and working for Maine State CU is that I feel like I'm fighting the good fight. I'm a bit of a "soldier" in the fight against big business and money hungry banks. I love that and it appeals to a broad range of young people who are burnt out on marketing with tons of fine print and pitfalls. We don't like being used by big business to do their dirty work while still running the risk of being dropped in an instant because of a budget cut. Its much more attractive to be loyal to a cause than it is a corporation.

We like to feel "at home" in our workplaces. When I walk into our break room I often feel like I've stepped into a library. Lots of people reading and a few quiet comments here and there. Your break room might resemble ours; a few tables with plastic chairs, a coffee machine, and lots of newspapers. Sure its an alright place to rest your eyes after marathon monitor-watching sessions, but the problem with this sort of environment is that I still feel like I'm "at work". Something as simple as a ping pong table (thanks to Morriss Partee for the link) can create an atmosphere of fun, bonding, and relaxation.

Generation Y is constantly looking to expand their social circle and make friends. You can bet that if I don't have at least a semblance of a social circle at work, it isn't someplace I'll feel bad about leaving. Create a place where people can congregate, get to know each other, escape from stress, and have a little fun too.

Purchase a Wii. It isn't exactly a budget breaker at around 300 clams (if you can find one), but bowling a few frames with a couple friends in the break room can make the day so much better and connect employees in the way a lunch room just can't.

When they opened the new T-Mobile call center outside of Waterville, Maine people talked most about their break rooms. They include TVs, game systems, and pinball machines. Make your Credit Union a fun place to work and word will spread.

Being attractive to Generation Y requires some change, but if you can get them motivated and loyal to your credit union, you can bet they'll produce some great results.

Friday, January 11, 2008

More Proof That Social Media Isn't a Fad


We all know that social media is here to stay, but that's because we are in the middle of it, watching it grow. After my presentation on Tuesday, the VP's first comment was, "Is this whole thing just a passing fad?"

It's easy for me to just say, "no, its here to stay", but its hard to prove that to somebody who is disconnected from all the user created goodness out there on the web. So now I'm on the hunt for research that proves social media is on its way up...and staying there.

I just wanted to share a few articles and sites that, I feel, help illustrate the importance and lasting appeal of social media.

Entertainment Industry Proclaims Social Media not a Fad

Podcast Downloads Pass 1 Billion

MediaRealism: Social Computing is not a Fad

Not a Fad, a Way of Life

Busting the Top 10 Social Media Myths

If anybody has some interesting links, I'd love to check them out! Sorry if this post is a bit of a tangent, It's Friday and I've got a couple of big posts in the works for next week.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Maine State CU Hosts the 3rd Annual Walk to Stop Hunger

We have scheduled the 3rd Annual Walk to Stop Hunger for April 26th. This year we'll be walking the newly finished Kennebec River Rail Trail! There will be a BBQ following the walk in Capitol Park and, if my assumptions drawn from the last couple of years are correct, some pretty kickin' prizes. The details are light right now, but expect periodic updates as we finalize the event.

Last year we raised over $16,000 at this event alone. This year we're hoping to get even more of the community involved as walkers, donors and volunteers. This is one of the events I love participating in. Its one of the few times we get to be out in the community trying to get people involved.

Any ideas, comments, or questions are very welcome!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Window into Generation Y

I'd like to start this post by telling everybody a bit more about myself.

I was born in 1987 and got my first computer in 1994. By the time I was 8 years old I had learned just enough about DOS commands to boot up Magic Carpet and Earthsiege. After that, computers became my life. At 11 years old, I began playing a game called Starsiege: Tribes. It was at this point that I had my first experience with an online community through forums associated with the game. From that point on, my life was lived behind a monitor or a drum set. Needless to say, my parents were less enthusiastic about the Internet than they were about music.

As soon as I was able to afford an MP3 player (my first was an RCA Lyra with 64mb of memory) I slowly stopped listening to the radio. I haven't heard a radio ad in over 5 years.

Since I discovered Adblock for Mozilla Firefox (one of my favorite plug-ins of all time) nearly 3 years ago, my browser has been ad free.

2007 was when I finally picked up a DVR (wish I could afford a TiVo!) and I've fast forwarded through every commercial break since. Well, unless there's a really outrageous ad that plays like a 30 second comedy sketch.

I tell you all this to illustrate a point. I, and all my friends, have nearly isolated ourselves from every traditional media/advertising outlet. This is how I, and most of my Gen-Y peers, operate.

So, when the president of Maine State CU asked me to come up with ways for us to connect with such an isolated demographic, I got really excited. I've always been a fan of the Credit Union movement and couldn't wait to start working my web knowledge and Gen-Y viewpoint into our institution. The challenge came when I was asked to present my thoughts on Gen-Y and web 2.0 to staff and management. All of this seemed like common sense to me, how could I break it down any more than just "knowing" it? I really had to step back and look at the generation gap between the boomers and myself. Here is a list of points that I made in a presentation to staff yesterday.

-The way people use the Internet has changed drastically. The Internet is no longer simply a business or research tool, it is a social meeting-place for millions of people. You no longer connect to a server and are fed a faceless page, you are connecting with the person behind the monitor on the other side.

-Average people now have the power of the press. Web 2.0 lets average people be read, heard, and watched by thousands and thousands of people based solely on word of mouth spreading through the net. This is also known as "Viral Marketing" and it has been proven to be a powerful marketing tool and one of the fastest ways to get yourself noticed by large quantities of people.

Take for example Nine Inch Nails' latest album, Year Zero. They used no traditional media to spread the news of this album and instead relied on people to discover the hidden web sites and mp3 files and spread them around the net. Needless to say, it worked.

-Why should it matter to Credit Unions? Generation Y has grown up with this social Internet. They are growing up and becoming a huge consumer market. At the same time, they ignore much of traditional media either by tuning it out because of distrust, or by isolating themselves from it.

-Generation Y doesn't participate in traditional focus groups or committees. Generation Y, sometimes referred to as "Generation We", is much more interested in diversity and the collective group than their predecessors of Generation X, or the "Me Generation". Taking a select few people from the collective and having them decide what it is that happens for the rest of the community goes against their global perspective and diverse lifestyle.

Not only does it go against this diverse upbringing, but if it isn't entertaining, they won't participate. The trick is to create an environment with the possibility of discussion and then driving them to that venue by encouraging conversation about something interesting and engaging to the collective group.

-The social Internet, once seen as a waste of time for a massive group of apathetic teens, is being accepted as a powerful way to connect with a younger audience. Connecting with our membership, and potential membership, on a personal level is one of the things that makes us a credit union. These new web 2.0 tools are giving us the opportunity to reach people in a way once thought impossible. It makes it easier to know people's faces, preferences, and the way they behave in a very dynamic way. It's no longer a matter of memorizing faces as they enter the branch, but keeping a social circle online that allows us to keep track of potentially thousands of people.

-Generation Y loves to support a worthwhile cause. Look at young peoples support of the green movement, or the fight to end cancer. The Credit Union movement ought to be one of them, but we aren't as engaged in our community enough for people to see what our true purpose is. We tend to fall into the category of corporations who try to cover their backsides by donating money to a cause every year. In fact, here at MSCU we stopped doing small business loans...isn't that part of being a credit union, supporting local economic growth?

-What do we do about it?

-we need to rethink our view of participation. Gen-Y is out there participating in discussion, but not where we expect or want them to be.

-We need to change our conception of what a committee is. As I stated in this post, Generation Y (including myself) will not drive to the CU to do a committee, whether you offer them a meal or not.

-We need to rethink the way we interact with and serve our communities. If we want to get people to participate in the community, we need to be in the community participating.

-We need to meet them in their element, as people. Take Walmart's social networking effort. They entered the scene as "Walmart" and were berated for their questionable business practices. If you can enter it as a person, looking to learn, teach, and change the business you represent you can use this criticism to your advantage. Criticism can lead to change, which can lead to acceptance in the community.

-We need to improve our image and become more visible to our community and online. Image is almost, or more, important to Generation Y than products and services. A great example of this is the iPod. There are devices out there that do what the ipod does, but better and at a more reasonable price. The Apple image is what they care about though, if it isn't an iPod, it isn't as cool.

At least here at Maine State CU, we have a terrible Internet presence. The site was created years ago and has never been updated. The Internet is changing by the day, if we want to stay relevant, we need to keep up with all the changes and advances in web technology. Having a "friendly" front page is becoming as important as having a friendly face at the teller window.

So, there you have it, my view of Generation Y, from the mouth of a Generation Y blogger. I'd like to here how you view my generation, what we do, and how we behave. In closing here's a short film staring a friend of mine who is a film student at The Art Institute of Boston. It is a commentary on Generation Y and their dependence on technology. Social creatures behind the monitor, but apathetic and disengaged while in public or outside of their own little Gen-Y world.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Friday Ramblings!

Its Friday...almost time to kick back and relax for another weekend of xbox, ps3, and perhaps finally getting around to seeing I Am Legend (the title always makes me want to scream it like king Leonidas from 300).

Nothing too serious today. I just gave a short presentation to management about the importance of web 2.0 (expect a post early next week detailing the sessions I'm giving to staff). I've been listening to Incubus's Science album a lot this past week, and one of the songs tittled "New Skin" has been my mantra for a few days as I prepare to try and shake some things up around here. Not sure if it will mean anything to anybody else, but to me, it exemplifies the position in which the credit union movement now sits.

"New Skin"

At first I see an open wound
infected and disastrous
It breathes chaotic catastrophe
it cries to be renewed
Its tears are the color of anger,
they dry to form a scab
To the touch, its stiff and resilient,
underneath, the new skin breathes
As outwardly cliche as it may seem,
yes, something under the surface says,
"C'est la vie"
It is a circle, there is a plan
dead skin will atrophy itself to start again
Look closely at the open wound
see past what covers the surface
Underneath chaotic catastrophe,
creation takes stage.
Its all been saved
with exception for the right parts
When will we be new skin?
Its all been seen with exception for what could be
When will we be new skin?
Fallacious cognitions
spewed from televisions
do mold our decisions.
So stop and take a look,
and you'll see what I see now

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What's in a Name?

"That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet."


Such is the rationale of Juliet. Maybe it's just that she's outdated, or hopelessly romantic, but I disagree.

What does your credit union's name say about you? To me it should say everything. Your credit union's name is the flag that tells the world what you're purpose is. It should tell people who it is you serve, and the way in which you serve them.

The first piece of information your name should reveal to potential members is who you serve. People should be able to see your credit union's name and know if they are eligible for membership, without ever opening your membership brochure. This is especially important if you are considering expanding your field of membership. For example, before we expanded our membership, we were Maine State Employees' Credit Union. Sure its a mouthful, but I can look at that name and know whether or not I am eligible for membership. When we expanded our field of membership we dropped the "Employees'" from the name...who do we serve now? Looking at the name it would be easy to think we served the whole state, but I'd be wrong. We now serve the Kennebec and Somerset counties, but our name doesn't tell me that. I have to search through the membership brochure to find out what towns are included in our coverage. I don't like that.

The second piece of info your name should tell people is how you serve them. We all have two small words in common, "credit union". Lets take a minute to examine what these two words actually mean. The term "Credit Union" has a very powerful message behind it, but it has been lost behind piles of paperwork and the bank-esque facade that has sprung up around many credit unions. A union is a collective group of people, working for the benefit of every person in the group. So what exactly is a "credit union"? It is a collective group of people who are working to improve the financial standing of everyone in the group by lending to each-other through an intermediary system, and by offering products and services tailored to the people specified in the first part of your name. People should be able to look at your name, see "credit union" and know what it is that you do. Unfortunately a lot of us have lost sight of this powerful term's meaning in the search for larger fields of membership. In the effort to grow the credit union movement, many (including MSCU) have lost touch with why the movement was started in the first place.

Let your name be a reminder of why your institution exists. Embrace it and what it means to the community you serve. Make sure it tells people who you are, what you do, and who you support.