Onboarding With The Power Of The Pen

Why a Chicago-area credit union ditches digital channels for much of its onboarding and a larger neighbor relies on remote channels to serve far-flung SEG sites.


Sometimes the best technology for onboarding new members is old-fashioned pen and paper.

That’s what Yvonne Irving and her team at Kane County Teachers Credit Union ($214.0M, Elgin, IL) rely on when they visit the more than 200 SEGs KCT serves.

Irving is KCT’s vice president of business development. She joined the credit union four years ago as community relations coordinator and for the past two years in her new position has helped lead the resurgent credit union’s efforts to revive relationships with its SEGs, especially the local school districts it serves.


Kane County Teachers Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.16

HQ: Elgin, IL
ASSETS: $214.0M
MEMBERS: 16,744
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 25.96%
ROA: 0.43%

That means setting up shop in places that don’t lend themselves to wireless signals, such as teachers lounges deep inside large school buildings. That’s why this May, Irving found herself at Larkin High School, one of four high schools in Elgin Area School District U46.

“I spent about four hours there, which is typical for these visits,” Irving says. “We sat and talked about concerns about memberships, about credit scores, about how to get financing, things of that nature. And I did a few enrollments.”

Enrollments on paper, that is. Irving doesn’t even try to use her laptop to onboard new members at remote sites anymore. But that doesn’t mean the process isn't polished.

“We don’t just sit there and shuffle through papers,” she says. “We’ve got it down to a science. It takes five to seven minutes.”

I spent about four hours there, which is typical for these visits. We sat and talked about concerns about memberships, about credit scores, about how to get financing, things of that nature. And I did a few enrollments.

It also takes the embarrassment out of situations where there’s no wireless signal and the credit union reps don’t have paper forms, as happened to Irving at a SEG visit once before. But only once.

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Irving used to do this work on her own, but approximately a year ago she hired an associate who divides the SEG visits with her. And sometimes MSRs from the branches also join in at larger events. This helps the credit union accommodate its increased SEG activity.

For site visits, KCT brings pre-made packets that contain the documents needed to establish a new membership, savings account, and checking account with debit card. Those packets then go to a branch manager and, usually within a day, a member service representative processes them. Then the credit union sends the new member a welcome email that includes instructions on how to sign up for electronic services.


Data as of 03.31.16

HQ: Vernon Hills, IL
MEMBERS: 206,692
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 12.50%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 9.75%
ROA: 1.09%

Such face-to-face service is not always possible for credit unions with a far-flung presence, such as BCU ($2.5B, Vernon Hill, IL). Like KCT, BCU is based in suburban Chicago, but it has 42 branches in a dozen states and Puerto Rico.

Stephanie Rideout, BCU’s business manager, says the credit union enrolls approximately 53% of its new members online and 47% in a branch. That figure varies widely from SEG to SEG, she notes, based on employee concentration and branch locations.

“We have some large SEGs that might have only two locations and the vast majority of their employees are themselves remote workers,” Rideout says. “We’re not going to be able to accommodate in-branch applications and onboarding for all of them, so they typically come in through our remote channels.”

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Even those who can access a branch often prefer online and mobile, not only for banking tasks but also to sign up in the first place. That works well for one of BCU’s largest SEGs, Target Corp.

BCU has several branches at Target corporate locations around the Twin Cities, including at the retail giant’s Minneapolis headquarters. It has managed that part of its operation as Target Credit Union, a Division of BCU, since a 2011 merger.

We’re not going to be able to accommodate in-branch applications and onboarding for all of [our large SEGs], so they typically come in through our remote channels.

Joline Epple serves as director of marketing for Target Credit Union. According to Epple, although some of her most engaged members have access to a branch, the electronic option is critical.

“For onboarding new members, if you think of just Target stores alone, there are 1,800 of them around the country,” she says. “It wouldn’t be possible for us to have a branch for all of them.”




May 23, 2016


  • Much prefer the USAlliance approach which supports opening an account in four minutes or less at SEG events. Faster, no PII on unsecure paper forms, easier data entry with no rekeying (rePENing?) and demonstrable digital savvy. See: http://www.creditunions.com/articles/mobile-onboarding-that-works-in-and-out-of-the-branch/
    Brandon Kunz
  • Well, except when they have no wireless. It works for them. Thanks for reading and writing, Brandon, we always appreciate feedback.
    Marc Rapport