Many credit unions teach members about basic finance. In an effort to educate the community and prepare members for financial success, credit unions address questions like: What is the difference between debit and credit? What is a credit score? How can I improve my credit score?
For members who know the basics and are ready to achieve more financial stability, McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union ($311.9M, East Windsor, NJ) offers comprehensive, goals-driven financial planning and advisory through its Lifecycle Financial Services CUSO.
“Many of our members don’t have access to a low-cost financial planning solution,” says Shawn Gilfedder, CEO of McGraw-Hill. “We formed the CUSO recognizing the greater need for improving the financial health of our membership.”
The credit union launched the CUSO — which focuses on life goals such as debt management, budget savings, and insurance — to a segment of its membership on January 1, 2013 and expects to open the CUSO’s services to the entire membership by third quarter. The CUSO offers a fee-only service where members meet with a certified financial planner to identify their current position in relation to their future goals and then establish a financial plan for meeting those goals. Members check in with a financial advisor every quarter to make sure they are on the right track. The CUSO also functions as a registered investment advisor and helps members set up a low-cost investment portfolio.
“Our price point and coaching fee is economical for members,” Gilfedder says. “We want to grab them early on in the process, we’re in this for the long haul, and make sure to position the relationship to bring financial health and wellness.”
To deliver financial planning to the credit union’s national membership without being bogged down by the overhead of brick-and-mortar financial planning branches, Lifecycle offers a majority of its services virtually.
“To keep costs down, we need to be efficient in how we deliver, so remote service tools and the virtual engagement is a primary focus,” Gilfedder says.
Webcasts create a personal experience between financial planners and members across the country. Because financial planning is about building and developing relationships, being able to see and engage with the planners is essential to building member trust in the CUSO.
“The opportunities to deliver services remotely continue to get cheaper,” Gilfedder says. “You can buy a high-resolution camera for a desktop for less than $100 and provide a seamless experience for the membership.”
However, getting members to adopt new technology can be a major hurdle when introducing a new product or service. This is less of a concern for McGraw-Hill. According to the credit union, it conducts approximately 70% of its business virtually. The credit union has a high penetration rate on remote service channels, meaning its membership has adopted online and mobile banking. The idea of attending a webcast to learn more about a product or engage with the credit union is not a foreign concept to most McGraw-Hill members.
“Get your membership in tune with that type of engagement,” Gilfedder says. “Craft that message and make sure you’re well-practiced in the virtual space before you go live with members.”
Before launching Lifecycle Financial Services, the credit union first introduced the CUSO to its employees to familiarize them with the product platform. This prepared the credit union to introduced Lifecycle to segments of the membership. Familiarity is key, as McGraw-Hill is not unrolling a marketing campaign to promote the CUSO. Instead, it is relying on financial service consultants to introduce Lifecycle to members that need assistance with their financial situation. For example, according to Gilfedder, 70% to 80% of people are managing their budgets in a debt load. Many people want advice on how to make it through a challenging financial time or prepare to begin accumulating wealth. These would be ideal referrals.
“If there is an opportunity, [financial service consultants] will refer individuals to Lifecycle,” Gilfedder says. “Our next evolution will be going direct to our employer-based organizations and setting up face-to-face as well as virtual seminars on the financial planning process.”
Lifecycle Financial Services creates long-term, engaged relationships with members. It offers advice on auto loans, credit cards, and mortgages. It also shows members the overall picture and helps them understand their current situation and prepare for the future.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity there,” Gilfedder says. “It’s a holistic approach that is a long-term investment for us. It is not a brokerage transaction that’s going to pay commission immediately, but it will pay out overtime. We’ve always given financial advice. Credit unions need to recognize the value of that advice and put it in the form of a financial plan and monetize it.”