Generation Y is reaching adulthood, and Generation Z is not far behind. According to a 2012 Filene report, the average age of a credit union member nationally is 47 years old. To grow younger, some credit unions have tailored products and services to better fit the needs of this generation; others have gone directly to the source by partnering with local colleges and universities.
Since 2008, Ent Federal Credit Union ($4.7B, Colorado Springs, CO) has been the official financial institution of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), a campus in the University of Colorado system with more than 11,000 students.
Approximately 66% of UCCS graduates go on to live in the Colorado Springs area, where Ent is headquartered.
CU QUICK FACTS
ent federal Credit Union
Data as of 06.30.15
HQ: Colorado Springs, CO
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.62%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 23.56%
“If we can build that relationship while they are on campus and they end up living and working here, we’d like to continue to be their financial institution,” says Victoria Selfridge, Ent’s vice president of corporate communications.
The Meeting Of Ent And UCCS
In 2008, UCCS put out a request for proposal to financial institutions in the Colorado Springs area for a branded debit card. Although it was up against two large national organizations, Ent won the bid for several reasons, says Matt Gendron, Ent’s executive vice president of operations.
First, the credit union has had a strong community presence for nearly 60 years.
Everyone is about growth these days. We viewed it as an opportunity to partner with the most respected entity in the community.
Also, credit union employees have either attended the university or are directly involved in university-sponsored programs and initiatives. For example, Gendron and others have been involved with university clubs since the late 1990s, and Barb Winter, Ent’s executive vice president of organizational resources, sits on the board for UCCS’s Chancellors Leadership Class, a leadership development program designed to engage students with members of the Colorado Springs community.
“When the RFP came out, UCCS knew of Ent and our interest in the university,” Gendron says. Although he is also quick to note the credit union’s ties to the university are organic. “We weren’t setting the groundwork by any means,” he says.
But beyond offering a way for the credit union to decrease the average age of its member, of 44.65 says Gendron, UCCS is an attractive partner because it is a focal point of the community, according to Winters. It is a well-respected institution that has relationships with local business organizations.
In addition, UCCS is growing — both in terms of students and faculty. In 2008, the university had 6,000 students on its campus, Gendron says. In less than 10 years, that has nearly doubled.
“Everyone is about growth these days,” he says. “We viewed it as an opportunity to partner with the most respected entity in the community.”
The Partnership And The Lion One Card
As the official financial institution of UCCS, Ent’s name is just about everywhere on campus.
The credit union participates in freshman orientation sessions and employees speak with incoming freshman and their parents about the benefits of its services. Ent also operates a service center near the university bookstore — a high-traffic, high-visibility location — that has a small ATM and two service windows. In addition, Ent has wrapped a university bus and displays posters in shuttle stops and bathroom stalls.
Ent is also the official sponsor of the UCCS Athletics Booster Club. As the university’s organized sports teams improve, so too does school spirit and engagement in the community, which gives the credit union a boost of popularity by association.
“Helping celebrate some of UCCS’s athletic successes has been great for our success as well,” Selfridge says.
The result of the RFP, Ent offers a branded combination campus ID and debit/ATM card. The Ent Lion One card is linked to a checking account but also grants access to resident halls and the bookstore as well as meal plans.
Currently, Ent has 4,892 live Lion One cards, which students and faculty can pick up at Ent’s on-campus branch.
“It’s customized to the university,” Selfridge says. “It’s not something you can pick off the shelf and plug-in.”
The Lion One debit and ATM cards
The Ent Center For The Performing Arts And The Future
UCCS’s footprint is expanding along with its student roster, and it is adding everything from staff and curriculum to new academic and cultural buildings. On August 18, it will break ground on a visual and performing arts center. The university asked Ent to supplement its fundraising efforts for the center, and as part of its renewed 15-year contract as the university’s primary financial institution, the credit union agreed
“We’re not typically in the arts arena in our communities,” Winter says. “We typically serve more basic human and community needs. But as an educational institution, we felt it was an appropriate opportunity.”
The Ent Center for the Arts will provide a needed utility to the students of the university, and the land planned for the center faces a busy thoroughfare, which provides Ent “the privilege and opportunity to expand our business more visibly,” Winter says.
A rendering of the Ent Center for the Arts. Courtesy of Ent Federal Credit Union
Since partnering with UCCS in 2008, Ent has opened north of 5,000 checking accounts to students, the majority of which continue with the credit union post-graduation, according to Selfridge. With its increased visibility though the Ent Center for the Performing Arts as well as the Lion One card, Ent hopes to attract more UCCS students and stay with them for life.
“When I was in college, the financial institution on campus was the choice,” Selfridge says. “To the extent that may be true for anyone at UCCS, we are proud to be that choice. Hopefully we can win that business now and into the future.”