Growing Credit Unions

This entry was posted by Thursday, 13 May, 2010
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Recently, CUNA CPD had the pleasure of having three guest panelists attend our department-wide staff meeting. The guests represented various aspects of the credit union system and included Jim Drogue, VP of Credit Union Development at the Wisconsin Credit Union League, Fritz Shunke, Director at Summit Credit Union and Mike Long, Executive VP at UW Credit Union.

Each of the panelists spent a few minutes talking about their role within the credit union system, and the challenges they face…the common concern for all three? Growing membership! It is a problem they face, and a problem that many of you likely face.

In 2009, when many credit unions were struggling to keep up with changes in regulations and the overarching challenges brought on by the recession, UWCU added 28,000 new members! Considering that their total membership is more than 145,000, this statistic is pretty impressive (that translates to nearly 20% growth).

How did UWCU do it? And in 2009 nonetheless? They did it by being who they say they are: People Helping People. 

They let current events do the talking. In the past two years, banks, in general, have gotten a bad rap. Of course, bad news for banks= good news for credit unions. News outlets such as the Today Show, CBSNews, MSNMoney, CNN, and Newsweek encouraged consumers who were dismayed by the “big bank bailouts” to entrust their money with credit unions. Movements such as Move Your Money popped up… inviting the general public to do just that. (Check out comments posted by “movers” on the Testimonials page. Your credit union might even be one mentioned!)

My Favorite Bumper Sticker

They send the right messages to existing and future members. For UWCU, this includes member surveys and other correspondence that say:  “Our members’ interest always comes first.”  Billboards around town are simple, yet honest: “We are always looking out for members.” Simple, yet powerful.

They show the credit union difference.  UWCU cares about their members. This means they want to provide members with good value, built on a foundation of service excellence. How do they do this? Through conversations and caring.

UWCU empowers its employees to find out what challenges individual members are facing and how the credit union might help them with those challenges. They encourage staff to cultivate meaningful relationships with members and tailor their service to fit the members’ needs, circumstances and financial goals.

 This involves:

  • Offering an array of reasonably priced and well-designed products and services;
  • Delivering technology systems that provide members a high level of convenience and control; and
  • Providing people with the information and understanding they need to make good financial decisions.


They attract “Members for Life.” This is actually the name of their internal training program and it is a name that fits. The goal of the program is to provide a service experience for members that exceeds their expectations, provides value and unbiased advice, and is consistent across the company. How do they fare? According to Rob Van Nevel, Assistant Vice President of Member Services, “more than 98% of our members say we meet or exceed their expectations.” I am one of those members.

I became a member of UWCU when I was still in high school. (Luckily, my mother steered me in the right direction at a very early age…thanks Mom!) More than fifteen years later, I can honestly say that I LOVE MY CREDIT UNION.

My first auto loan in 2003...for this Nissan Altima!

I love Cory Poole, who helped me with my first car loan. Not only did Cory explain the loan process carefully and answer all of my questions, once the deal was sealed he walked me out to the parking lot to check out my “new” used Altima. It took just a few minutes out of his day but with that one act, Cory made me a Member for Life. He was the first person I called when my husband and I began “condo shopping” and he made the mortgage loan process a lot less scary.

I love Beth Grosskopf, who helped me lock in an amazing rate on my most recent car loan. As if that weren’t enough, she helped my husband and I consolidate some other loans so we could pay them off faster, and at a special rate.  

In addition to the people, I LOVE UW Web Branch—in fact, I might have a problem. I am on Web Branch every day, managing my money and watching my savings grow. I love the new incorporation of Money Management Tools and I secretly hope that it was the suggestion I submitted in 2009, that brought this amazing tool to life. Why? Because I know UWCU actually listens to their members. For that, and so many other reasons, I LOVE MY CREDIT UNION! And I’ve never heard anyone say that about their bank. 

What about you? What is your credit union doing to grow membership and retain members for life?

6 Responses to “Growing Credit Unions”

  1. Nice post, and good question at the end. My credit union has been able to retain my patronage thanks to their online banking features and shared branching services. I considered switching to another CU when I moved away from the MD/DC/VA area, but my CU gave me every reason to stay by providing the services to meet my needs.

  2. Carol Jerome

    I have been a member of SUMMIT CU for over 24 years, when it was State Capitol Employees Credit Union. I would not be a member of any other financial instituion other then a Credit Union! LOVE MY CREDIT UNION!

  3. I joined CUNA credit union in 1984 because it was literally around the corner from my house on Atwood Ave. Since then I have joined two other credit unions in Madison, with UWCU as my PFI. The customer service is outstanding, friendly, trustworthy and sincere. I have encouraged all of my family and friends to switch to credit unions and the resounding response has been “Wow, why did I wait so long!”

  4. Todd Spiczenski

    Nice post Courtney! I joined CUNA Credit Union (now Summit)when I first moved to Madison. Summit remains my PFI to this day because of how well I’ve been treated by them over the years. Not only that, I met my wife who was a teller at the time for CUNA CU. 22 years later, 2 kids, several loans and a family full of credit union members. Yup…we still love our credit union!

  5. Wow! It is so nice to read your stories and to know that I am not alone in my love for credit unions. I didn’t REALLY think I was the only one, but it is nice to get confirmation. For those of you who haven’t commented…please tell us why you love your credit union OR why you think members love your credit union.

    In addition to UWCU, I am also a member of Summit Credit Union (formerly CUNA CU). These days I only have a savings account there (in a vain effort to hide money from myself) but I am always treated splendidly when I do visit the branch. Sue, our teller here at CUNA HQ, knows me by name and always greets me with a big smile.

    So why is UWCU my PFI? In addition to their amazing service AND great rates on loans, they simply have the tool I NEED…a robust web branch. The web branch is an integral part of my life and perhaps for other “Gen Xers” like me who don’t necessarily “balance a checkbook” but instead manage their money on a frequent (sometimes daily) basis. I love having the ability to pay all of my loans with just a few clicks of the mouse. And I love seeing where my money goes each month with their money management tools.


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