Entrust Financial Credit Union ($69.3M, Richmond, VA) knows the power of effective messaging. The credit union is redefining how members view their money and themselves with an onboarding process that brings concierge exclusivity and a financial outreach campaign centered on “Banking with a Higher Power.”
Starting this year, EFCU began offering each new member to join the credit union a dedicated Member Resource Specialist (MRS) to walk them through the onboarding process. The idea draws on the personal banker concept from for-profit models, but applies that benefit to everyone, not just the financial elite.
“The first impression means everything,” says Susan Adams, CEO. “We want to provide a welcoming resource for each new member who can be their go-to person during the first 90 days.”
Entrust did get a boost in from Bank Transfer Day-type campaigns, but as a credit union serving only faith-based organizations, it wanted to do something special to appeal to its specific SEGs. Whether the focus is getting underbanked individuals into an affordable checking product, consolidating outside debt through refinancing, or providing on-site financial counseling at church locations, the credit union wanted “everyone to have the opportunity to feel good about their financial circumstances,” says Greta Kidd, vice president of marketing and member development.
“We are really seeking to grow our membership, but felt we needed to be an advocate on our own and take the time to show potential members how to be good stewards with their finances,” Kidd says. “Our SEGs have been seeing a lot of financial distress, both among church members and other people who are served by these organizations.”
Entrust has already devoted two of its 21 full-time employees to onboarding effort, and plans to add more as membership increases. The reps primarily work out of an office at the credit union’s sole branch location, but the program is not designed to draw extra traffic there (which could potentially increase staffing requirements or other costs). Rather, the turn to virtual channels, especially in the later stages of the relationship.
“The majority of our applications are electronic, so whether a member emails us, calls us, or goes through our online channel to open the account, we have good reason to have that high-touch follow up set up for them,” Adams said. “We don’t want them to feel like they’re just interacting with a machine.”
The Member Resource Specialists handle all initial tasks like legal disclosures and account openings. Then, with member’s permission, they pull and analyze credit reports, offer guidance and analysis, and assist with additional product or service applications. Each interaction usually unearths a number of cross-sell opportunities, says Adams. But the process is not an overtly aggressive culture where products are sold at the price of the member’s well-being.
“We’re certainly looking for new loans, but they need to be options that enable the members and not enslave them,” says Kidd. “We want to help them attack their debt faster through a more competitive product or rate.” For advanced options like wealth management or mortgage applications, the Members Resource Specialists serve as a liaison to other departments, familiarizing those employees with the member’s specific situation.
“I want members to walk away saying ‘Wow, that was a different experience,’” says Adams, “I don’t think you can get that without personalized interactions.”
The reps follow a set schedule for their outreach, which typically occurs by email or phone. This includes the day after a member opens their account and again two weeks later to make sure they’ve received their debit card. Then there’s a 60-day, a 90-day, and a one-year follow up to assess the member’s ongoing situation and address any issues.
This ongoing contact and some small touches like personalized thank-you cards (mailed out with additional business cards from the reps) encourage these members to continue referring new business, even in the later stages of the relationship.
The 90-day check-in is called the fly-bird-fly step because that’s when members are provided with other ways to contact the credit union outside of their personal reps. Yet they’re hardly dumped from the nest against their will.
“Once members have established the relationship, they’re not going to be calling you every day or every week,” says Adams. “It’s only when they need something.”
The service will be further enhanced by the credit union’s new “Banking with A Higher Power” outreach campaign which, though still in the soft launch phase, features a micrcosite, social media outreach and a series of TV commercials designed to reverberate among EFCU’s desired market. In the fall, Entrust will make a harder marketing push, including an ongoing video and radio strategy, new email blasts for members, and more community outreach and seminars.
“We’re using real members and testimonials about our service in these campaigns because it adds validity to what we’re doing here,” says Kidd. “We’re even getting new ideas and initiatives from other departments in the organization, because employees really believe in this campaign as well.”
Marketing cost per member have increased significantly as a result of this outreach, yet many operational components like the Member Resource Specialist staff, their office location, and other resources were repurposed from existing channels to limit deployment costs. Once the program hits its stride, the credit union is projecting around a 35-50% bump in loans outstanding just as a result of the changes.
“We’re much better positioned to reach our goals,” says Adams.