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CUs examining next steps to keep new-member momentum
MADISON, Wis. (11/9/11)--Credit unions have barely had time to catch their collective breath from a month of giddy, record-breaking membership increases, but already they are thinking ahead on what to expect this week and beyond.

Even though Bank Transfer Day has passed, many credit unions are still working to attract new members. The promotions and ad campaigns that many credit unions used leading up to Bank Transfer Day won't end there.  For many, BTD is just the beginning of their campaigns, some of which will last through December.
In Pennsylvania, First Capital FCU Branch Manager Sharon Miller, right, opened an account for a new member Saturday, one of about 40,000 new members who switched to credit unions on Bank Transfer Day. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)

David Bennett, spokesman for the Northwest Credit Union Association, told The Register-Guard (Nov. 8) that the shift has been significant and is irreversible. In addition to new accounts coming into credit unions, existing members are shifting all their accounts to credit unions. "There were a lot of record-setting days at our credit unions on Saturday," he said. "The movement right now of people toward credit unions is unprecedented."

Greater Alliance FCU Hackensack, N.J., said it may step up its marketing efforts as it attempts to keep up Saturday's momentum. "It's good for us because the general consumer is learning that they have a better alternative than just joining a regular bank," said Glenn Guinto, the credit union's vice president for operations (The Record Nov. 8)

Meanwhile, credit unions continued to report on their progress with Bank Transfer Day.

Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU, the largest credit union in Long Island, opened a record 1,471 new checking accounts during its one-week BankTransfer Day promotion, compared with 383 accounts opened the same week a year ago. Of those, 672 were opened on Saturday. It has seen $100 million increase in deposits since Sept. 29, the date Bank of America's $5 debit card fee was disclosed. The consumer outcry forced the bank to rescind the fee last week.

"Bank Transfer Day provided frustrated consumers the opportunity to leverage their voices, realizing the valuable options credit unions offer, and until the mega banks eliminate all new monthly checking account fees, consumers' frustration and discontent will continue," said Kirk Kordeleski, president/CEO of Bethpage, in a press release.

Many of the new accounts were existing members, who received $100 for opening a checking account and turning in their old bank cards or checks. More than 900 members received the offer and all those on site were eager to learn more about the credit union difference, he said.

Charlotte (N.C.) Metro FCU, which opened about 75 accounts this weekend--more than four times its usual weekend business, said that is branches are closed on weekends--so the traffic was all online. It also reported it opened about 1,400 new checking accounts in October, compared with its normal monthly average of 400 (Charlotte Observer Nov. 8). "We have yet to see a slowdown," Chief Operating Officer Nicol Morris told the newspaper. "Through the week, I think we'll still see a decent amount of activity."

Most of the North Carolina's credit unions were closed last weekend, said Jeff Hardin of the North Carolina Credit Union League. The branches that were open reported a modest increase of traffic. "We suspect that it's obviously going to slow down, but we think there is going to continue to be the momentum that we've seen as people continue to evaluate their options," Hardin told the newspaper. "We just invite people to look at credit unions."

Earthmover CU, Montgomery, Ill., told the Montgomery Patch that it wasn't just the weekend but the days leading up to it that produced its growth in members. "I started to notice it the week before. We got a lot of people calling and coming in, and quite a bit coming back to get accounts opened," Doug Williams, manager of the Montgomery branch,  reported to the newspaper.

Northwest Community CU in Oregon was surprised to get 41 new accounts Saturday, said CEO John Iglesias (The Register-Guard Nov. 8). Membership growth was already 300% above normal in October. "We didn't expect to get any more on Saturday, but we did. I don't see it slowing down any time soon," he told the newspaper.

Associated CU, based in Norcross, Ga., added 889 accounts in the past week, more than double its average weekly gain after robust growth in October, said The Atlanta Journal and Constitution  (Nov. 8). It opened 90 new accounts at branches on Saturday, plus 50 new accounts this weekend via the Internet. Normally, Saturday attracts 15 new accounts.

The Georgia Credit Union Affiliates told the newspaper that many credit unions aren't open weekends. Still, Georgia credit unions welcomed more than 14,500 new members since the end of September and gained $101 million in new deposits during that time.

Delta Community CU, Atlanta, reported opening 150 new accounts Saturday, up from its normal 60 to 80 accounts. However it added more than 4,000 accounts overall in October, up 150% from its average month, said the newspaper.

Will consumers continue to shift away from the big banks? University of Louisiana at Lafayette Finance Professor Linus Wilson told the Atlanta newspaper he wasn't sure. However, he added that the Occupy Wall Street movement seems to be holding its momentum. "And if that's the barometer of how mad people are getting, it would indicate there is still momentum to people wanting to move" their accounts.

Mike Beall,  president/CEO of the Missouri Credit Union Association, noted in Maryland Heights   that the 131 credit unions in Missouri added 7,100 new members who transferred $49 million into the credit unions.   Vantage CU reported that consumers were coming into the credit union, saying they were with Bank of America and wanting to see what the credit union offered.

"We think consumers have wised up to the concept that banks will continue to charge large fees one way or another," Beall told the newspaper. "We think this will continue as a trend." He said credit union members even brought in friends and family members to make the switch and noted that "banks are on notice that they will not be able to deliver huge profits to their shareholders on the backs of their customers. They will have to re-think their business model on this."

Ohio and Michigan reported large numbers of consumers converting to credit unions. In Ohio, 15,000 new members enrolled in credit unions and added $106 million in deposits from Sept. 29 to Oct. 29, Patrick Harris, spokesman with the Ohio Credit Union League told The Blade (Nov. 8). That compares with 30,000 new members  a year.

Harris also noted that Bank Transfer Day gave credit unions the opportunity to dispel myths about credit unions, such as few locations and restrictions on who can join.

At Glass City FCU, Maumee, Ohio, new accounts totaled 121 in October, up from 100 in September, and through Sunday had added 28 new accounts so far in November. Glass City spokesperson Sarah Ritenour told the newspaper that "We also noticed that it wasn't just new members that we were receiving. Our current members who just have savings accounts, came last month and opened checking accounts with us."

David Seeger, president/CEO of Great Lakes CU, Sylvania, Ohio, noted that the bankers' fees turned out to be "the greatest Christmas gift we could ever get. It's pretty good marketing for us."
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