Four Key Success Factors Drive Membership Growth

Focus. Excite. Network. Over deliver. In 2005, these four themes drove two SEG-based credit unions to succeed in a slow growth environment.


Overall credit union membership grew at the slow pace of 1.7 percent over the past 12 months ending Sept. 30. So how are some credit unions achieving double-digit growth rates? Two very different credit unions illustrate some common themes we’ve found in our research on credit unions that are successful at growing their membership bases. The first is BCU, formerly Baxter Credit Union, headquartered in Vernon Hills, IL. The other is HawaiiUSA. Both of these credit unions have not chosen community charters but are focusing on developing employee-based membership.

Know what your credit union does best and do not try to be everything to everyone. Both BCU and HawaiiUSA have demonstrated that they can grow their membership base much faster than the average credit union by focusing on a specific strength.

At one extreme is BCU which focuses on serving employees of very large companies, specifically Fortune 100s. BCU recently added two new sponsor companies, Cardinal Healthcare and Boston Scientific, and are “throwing the net” to all corners of these organizations.

HawaiiUSA, on the other hand, has over 2,220 SEGs—many of them sole proprietorships. Due to the high cost of living in Hawaii, many residents operate business out of their homes in addition to their “day jobs.” The need to keep these business accounts separate from their personal ones has proven to be a growth opportunity for HawaiiUSA.

Whether it’s your executive team, the business development staff or your front line tellers, passion for the credit union ideal and excitement behind your specific strategy are necessary components of a member growth strategy.

At BCU, it starts with their strategic planning efforts. The planning team identified partnerships and alliances as a key strength and one place where they should direct their efforts at being not only good, but the best. This message is filtered down throughout the organization and drives their focus on employee-based membership for large companies.

At HawaiiUSA, the entire credit union is the marketing department, according to Scott Kaulukukui, senior vice president of communications. He gives credit for driving a lot of the growth to the service culture of the front line staff and to the business development officers, “who are ready to go whenever they are needed, whether it’s at six in the morning or seven at night.”

Networking is a key component of any SEG-based credit union’s membership growth strategy, whether it be with executives from sponsor companies or through local networking organizations.

Officers at BCU cultivate relationships with current and former Baxter employees. As these contacts continue their careers at other companies, they have proven to be successful at opening doors and ultimately to signing companies up as new SEGs for BCU. HawaiiUSA’s focus on smaller SEGs drives them to participate in local networking organizations, like the chamber of commerce or a local SHRM chapter.

This key success factor ties in strongly with the previous one. The only way to effectively network is to convey the passion and excitement about credit union membership to your potential partners.

Over Deliver
Over deliver is a common theme among credit unions successful at growing their membership. It starts with the first visit to the potential sponsor company and continues throughout the relationship.

With the addition of their two new SEGs this year, BCU is facing a potential new membership base of over 110,000 employees. In order to deliver what they promised to these new sponsor companies, BCU developed a list of what it would not do this year—including signing up other new SEGs—in order to deliver on their promise of being the best financial service provider to Cardinal Healthcare and Boston Scientific.

Scott Kaulukukui is a firm believer in this value as well. HawaiiUSA makes sure their infrastructure is set up to support their new members. Maintaining front office morale and a focus on a “sales and service” culture have been a successful component of not only serving their new members but on converting these members into ambassadors for the credit union.

Listen to firsthand presentations from leading credit unions on the streaming webcast, Organic Member Growth Strategies: Expanding Membership through SEG Development. For more information, click here.




Jan. 3, 2005


  • Would like to see more about "how" it is done.
  • HawaiiUSA has seen member growth of 10.27% in 2004 and asset growth of 15.76%. BCU's 9-month member growth was 12.00% and asset growth was 15.47%.
  • Where are their growth stats?
  • What was their rate of membership growth?
  • Good points presented in this article. Food for thought.
  • Good thoughts but what are their asset sizes and resources to make these forays into new potential members. As a small ($6 million) with only a staff of two doing the day to day is often all we can manage
  • good...
  • I would have liked to have known more raw figures in relation to the growth, and perhaps rebuttals to the proposed growth tactics.
  • It's always good to hear about other company's successes.
  • Great Article and very timely