Aaron Weiler, a member service representative at Educators Credit Union ($1.4B, Racine,WI), recently helped a member save $49,333 in interest by refinancing a Bank of America mortgage. Colleen Sunderland, Educators loan enhancement director, has saved members more than $1 million over the past three consecutive years.
At least 86 other Educators employees guide members toward outstanding savings on their loans through its Fast Lane Financing program started in 2008. Educators has consistently exceeded its annual goals for the program, including this year, when it originally aimed to save members $20 million. It surpassed that goal by more than $200,000 by early May and extended its goal to $30 million for the rest of 2012.
Educators has grown its total loans by more than 40% from 2008 to first quarter 2012, according to Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer data. During that time, membership has grown from 87,197 to 109,529. From 2011 to 2012, Educators’ membership growth increased 10.3%, with more than 10,000 individuals joining.
Many credit unions are using Educators’ Fast Lane Financing campaign as a model for their own recapture programs and to increase member satisfaction. Educators started the program to beef-up its loan portfolio through auto loan refinance, setting its first goal in 2008 of $1 million in member savings.
“We reached our goal so quickly that our members and employees asked us to open Fast Lane Financing to our other portfolios,” says Shannon Huot, marketing manager at Educators. “The program turned into an opportunity for us to help our members save but also to have those lending dollars going out. … The beauty of Fast Lane is that we’re not asking people to take on more debt.”
Weiler says the general lending climate is difficult lately as people are saving money and uemployement is high. He’s started looking at every consumer that walks in the branch door as an opportunity.
Educators incentivizes its employees to promote more savings. Its Winner’s Circle recognizes staff based on savings milestones between $250,000 and $1 million. For example, if an employee saves members $500,000 they win a $200 Visa gift card and lunch with the president of the credit union. If an employee saves $1 million for members, they can earn a two-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the Wisconsin Dells, a popular waterpark destination.
Huot says Fast Lane Financing’s success depends on the employee buy-in, so the credit union also motivates staff by sending internal emails about savings leaders. It awards a certificate to employees who reach savings goals that they can display and encourages employees and members to share their stories or video testimonials on the credit union’s website.
But Sunderland says the main motivator is the fact that the employees want to be onboard with the mission to help members save.
“It’s a self-rewarding program,” say Sunderland. “You have a good inside feeling knowing you’ve made a difference in the members’ lives.”
Persuasive Payoffs For Members
Fast Lane Financing also offers other incentives to members, like running free soft credit reports that don’t affect the members credit score and allows Educators staff to examine where they can help members save.
The credit union established the Sit and Save program, which asks members to come into a branch and review their credit report with a member service rep. Even if Educators can’t find a way to save the members money, it still gives them a $25 gift card for their time.
“There’s very few times someone comes in and we can’t save them money,” Weiler says. “Nine out of ten times we can.”
Weiler says he does this by looking first at their mortgages. Usually the members can refinance their mortgage with the credit union to save on interest rate or roll all their debt into one payment over a shorter period of time. For example, most members have several credit cards that they’re paying on, but if they roll each credit card into one, they can usually save money on the payment rate.
Other member incentives include monthly payment giveaways, gift cards for referrals, and — arguably the most important – handwritten thank-you notes when they close on their loans. Even this small gesture means a lot to Educators members and is one reason why most of the credit union’s advertising comes from word-of-mouth.
Educators offers many innovative loans options, like a credit rebuilder loan, which is a $500 to $2,000 loan for members that want to pay off certain debts and raise their credit scores. Weiler says he’s proud to see members come in after paying off the credit rebuilder loan to get an auto loan.
Word-of-mouth marketing has been a huge push for the financial institution, which is welcoming an increase in membership and member loyalty.
“Members are obtaining more of the sticky products, like checking accounts, debit cards, and online and mobile banking, from us,” Huot says. “They’ve really established us as their primary financial institution.”
Educators measures Fast Lane Financing success manually. Once an employee helps a member with a loan, the employee turns it into the senior vice president, who verifies the loan and documents the total interest saved over the course of the loan.
Individual branch performances are also tallied. Each of Educators’ 17 branches has a different savings goals based on its membership and financials.
“People are really looking for ways to stretch their dollar,” Huot says. Fast Lane Financing is “a program that builds relationships with members. Members trust us enough and they know we’re being honest.”