Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Happy Credit Union Day

Credit Union Day

October 18th is Credit Union Day! So, what is the big deal? The credit union, after all, is simply a supplier of financial services in the banking industry; there is nothing sexy about that! Too often, the consumer’s focus is on comparing products and services of credit unions versus big bank competitors. Its natural to compare an interest rate or service charge when choosing a financial service provider but there is so much more to consider. Credit Union Day provides the opportunity to focus on the credit union difference, so consumers can see that it truly is better to do business with a credit union. This blog highlights a few key credit union differences.

An important distinction is the concept of ownership. A member of a credit union is an owner; they can contribute to the successful operation of the organization. Now, this might not be something most people are interested in.  When our members were polled only 21% agreed that this was important to them. This is fine, but the ownership concept extends well beyond credit union governance. Ownership means that the credit union works for you, the owner. When a typical business or a bank makes a decision, who does that decision usually benefit the most? The answer is the owners, the major shareholders, the people or companies who stand to make the most profit from the decision, not necessarily the customers. But in the case of credit unions, the owners are the customers. And because our customers control us, democratically, we ALWAYS act in the best interests of our members.

Leading Edge Credit Union actually embedded this focus in our vision which states that “we strive to assist all our members to meet their financial goals by providing advice and services with a focus on the members’ best interests.” When you deal with us, you can rest assured that our focus is on your best interests. But you don’t have to take my work for it! Our most recent member survey tells us that 92.76% of our members feel that LECU acts in their best interests. In fact, nationally, credit unions have placed #1 in customer service for 14 consecutive years. So, if you want honest financial advice from a financial institution that truly has your back, then seek out a credit union. Oh, and by the way, if the credit union is successful, you share in the success. LECU has returned over $644,000 back to our members in the form of dividends and patronage rebates. And that’s on top of offering great rates and banking packages! It’s really an easy decision.

Another feature that sets us apart from our competitors is our role in our communities. Community capacity building and support is in the DNA of credit unions. We are built on the foundation of 7 co-operative principles. One of these principles is ‘concern for community’. To illustrate our commitment to thriving communities, LECU operates in two communities where banks had closed branches deeming the community too “unprofitable”. . Leading Edge Credit Union instead chooses to focus on supporting the social-economic development of communities. This statement is supported by the many great things that LECU does within our communities such as volunteering, sponsorships and donations, educational programming, and environmental initiatives. We know that the well-being of your community is important to you; LECU has always and will always play a significant role in supporting strong and vibrant communities. To-date in 2018, our staff members have contributed 322 hours of volunteer time during work hours and a whopping 904 personal volunteer hours in their communities. LECU has also supported over 93 community organizations this year!
On this International Credit Union Day, we have a lot to celebrate! So if you haven’t done so yet, maybe it’s time to check us out and start your journey towards a better financial future for you while helping build a stronger community for everyone. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Member Satisfaction! Why its especially important for Credit Unions!

I am just nearing completion of a kitchen renovation; for those of you who that have ever renovated a piece of your home, you can relate to the fun of living through a construction zone. Surprisingly, the construction was actually the least stressful part, mainly due to a patient and understanding contractor. The main issues I ran into was with suppliers who failed to address a simple fundamental business concept: SERVICE! My new Samsung dishwasher came complete with a faulty part that caused it to leak and (thankfully) display an error code. Calls to the warranty department were met with roadblocks after roadblocks, with staff not really caring about relationship building or developing loyalty, instead following a scripted process that made little sense. A simple repair of a $50 retail part after three weeks turned into a moving truck taking away my new dishwasher--apparently, that was cheaper than having someone come and repair the unit! As I still await my refund, I can’t help but think the process does not have the best interests of the customer in mind. I don’t have a dishwasher or the money I paid for it a full month after I purchased the unit.

I am simply one of millions of customers that purchase Samsung products and I guess my business is not important. After all, the company’s main focus is on driving profit and meeting share price expectations for its shareholders who are not necessarily their customers. They must produce quality products otherwise sales would suffer, but why neglect the service? Sales and service should compliment one another, adding customer value. The problem lies with ownership! I have little influence over Samsung polices, procedures, products, services, or staffing. I am a consumer so I simply consume the goods produced by the company if I like them, and that is where it ends.

The Credit Union model is fundamentally different, a fact which most members are likely not even aware of. To use the services of a credit union you must first become an owner. You purchase your shares which then provides you with access to all the products and services the credit union offers. The shares you pay makes you an invested owner with also means that you have input on how your credit union is run and ways in which it may be improved. Most members simply want to avail of the products and services--and there is nothing wrong with that--but it is always nice to know that, as an owner, your opinion is valued and taken seriously. I know I wish my concern on my dishwasher could have been heard or taking seriously but that was not the case.

The vision statement of LECU was changed to focus on assisting members reach their financial goals with their best interests in mind. The focus is on people, not profit, and initiatives, such as low fees, more services, and a strong focus on advice, are put in place to support this vision.

In the most recent member survey, members indicated that 97.2% were satisfied with their relationship with LECU. In the word cloud that was captured when members were asked why they feel this way, the word service was prominent in member responses. Members are the owners; the purpose of the staff is to serve the owners daily and ensure they assist them in meeting their financial goals. It is vital that we continue to have the necessary policies, procedures, and standards in place to continue to provide superior service.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Credit Union Difference

I am fairly confident in saying that most members dealing with our credit union seek us out for financial products and services. They hear about the great service and are most likely seeking an alternative financial service provider. They become members of a credit union with little understanding of the membership features and benefits. So, does the co-operative difference really matter? In order to understand this question, members need to understand how a credit union is different.

First, as a member-owner of the credit union, it’s all about you! The credit union was originally formed by members to serve their own needs and best interests; that concept still holds true today. We, as a staff team, work to service you. You are the fundamental reason why we exist so every decision we make is to satisfy our vision to assist all our members to meet their financial goals by providing advice and services with a focus on our members’ best interests. This is our guiding strategic direction; we must work hard to build trust so that you know we are working to assist you in meeting your financial goals. How is this different? Members are owners and not customers. Yes, every business wants to treat its customers well and build loyalty, but sometimes business make decisions not in the best interest of its customers but in the best interest of the business. At your credit union this is not the case. For example, we forfeit about $178,000 in service fee revenue annually by offering seniors and non-profit account holders access to free banking. That revenue could certainly assist our bottom line but how much is too much? Our competition continues to make record profits for the benefits of its investors, not necessarily its customers.
Second, the credit union, as a co-operative, has a fundamental responsibility to make its community a better place. This responsibility makes up of one of seven guiding principles that make the co-op model unique. The participation of your credit union in community events should not be confused with methods to try and get more business. The purpose of these actions is to truly improve the community and fill potential social gaps. Cleaning a beach makes the community better by giving it a safe and environmentally acceptable place for families to enjoy the outdoors. We recently purchased huge barbecues to assist non-profit groups to fundraise in their community so they could also do good work. Another major project we undertook was the establishment of a co-operative daycare to fulfill a childcare gap in our community. These activities could not take place without the support of our members. A member choosing to do business with their credit union is a social change agent in their community.

There are many more differences but these are just a few for today. The question that I have is this: are you willing to become a social change agent in your community? Knowing that you have to avail of banking services either way, would these two fundamental differences sway your opinion when choosing a financial institution?  Stay tuned for more on the credit union difference.