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In this era of low rates and stingy credit approvals, it’s always nice to get a little good news from your FI. This week, Chicago’s Alliant Credit Union made the most of its 10 basis point increase in its basic saving rate. On its homepage, the drop-down navigation menus for both Bank and Invest, included a cute graphic touted the new 1.11% APY (see above).
And clicking on Learn More takes you to a page proclaiming rates “15.9x times the national average (I feel like they could just say “15x,” the extra 0.9x just makes it harder to read and is meaningless). See screenshot below.
Bottom line: If you got it, flaunt it. Have a great weekend! (and go Venus!)
If there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s honoring and celebrating the service of our veterans both past and present. Given the contentious election week in the United States, you’d think U.S. financial institutions would be rolling out the red, white and blue on their websites on Veterans Day today. But there was surprisingly little activity at the major banks. Most had the same old-same old on their homepages. Even Navy Federal Credit Union passed on adding anything extra for the day.
The only top-50 banks with Veterans Day graphics were Bank of America, Zions and of course USAA, all displaying page-dominating graphics on their homepages (see below). We also looked at a few credit unions (at random) and found BMI Federal Credit Union and PenFed honoring vets (see below).
I’ve been following First Tech Federal Credit Union since my days as a Seattle-based banker. They were quite the thorn in our side, attracting all the Microsoft employees despite our integration with Microsoft Money.
Fast-forward two decades and the credit union is still going gangbusters, nearing $10 billion in assets and 425,000 members. Its latest coup was to nab a coveted “Best of” award from MONEY (aka Money Magazine). The publisher named First Tech The Best Credit Union for Everyone in its annual review of the best banks. First Tech was the only credit union mentioned. TD Bank and US Bank tied for Best Big Bank. Chase was named Most Convenient and First Internet Bank received top honors in the Online Bank category with Ally receiving an honorable mention.
Naturally, I headed over to First Tech to see for myself what had so impressed the Money editors, aside from great pricing. The CU has a bright and modern desktop site (although they still have some work to do on mobile). I especially loved the sales tool on the homepage (see below). The prospective member chooses their products, and the cumulative savings is shown on the right. It’s one of the best sales tools I’ve ever seen, although I would like to see a little more transparency on how the numbers were calculated.
Bottom line: Consumers consistently rate switching banks as one of their least favorite tasks. To get someone to budge, you must get their attention with clear benefits. And if you are a low-cost, high-APY FI, there is no better way to do that than flaunting your money-savings benefits.
I thought I’d left behind Berenstain Bears 15 years ago when my youngest graduated to Animorphs books. But they made an appearance today when I discovered how they are helping kids get involved with saving and managing money. And before you dismiss their appeal, did you know the Bears have sold 300 million copies in a 54-year run which includes 300 titles!
The book is in use at a number of credit unions, but none more prominently than O Bee FCU in the Tacoma, Washington, area. Its Berenstain-themed Cub Account for under-12 members includes a 7.5% rate on the first $500 in savings, an important feature so you can use something other than pennies to show your youngster the benefits of savings. More impressive for the kids, every branch-deposit earns a free Dairy Queen ice-cream cone coupon (see inset for full list).
Bottom line: Efforts aimed at banking the kids of your customers are a clear win-win. It’s the right thing to do; kids, and their parents, need these services. And it helps keep both the child and their parents as customers for the rest of their lives. See our previous posts for more examples.
Besides losing weight and hitting the gym more often, financial matters dominate the New Year’s resolution list. Spend less. Save more. And in general, just be smarter about your money. During this brief window of rational thinking, financial institutions would be wise to promote these smart products and services.
But in a fairly exhaustive search today (31 Dec 2012), looking at the 40 largest U.S. banks and at least that many credit unions (note 1), we found only one New Year-themed promotion (note 2), a 1.49% auto-refi offer from Stanford Federal Credit Union (see below).
Stanford FCU homepage (31 Dec 2012)
Landing page for New Year promo
Notes: 1. The first 40 to 50 credit unions listed in the Google results when searching “credit union” from a Seattle IP address. 2. Several credit unions posted well wishes and holiday hours on their homepages. Also, Fifth Third has a “celebrate 2013” message on its homepage as we reported last week. 3. Picture from New Year email and infographic by Finovate alum, Kiboo
Integrating offline marketing with online fulfillment is a promising way to improve ROI. Pelican State Credit Union grabs member attention with a temporary yellow bar across the top of the page (see screenshot below). It directs members that received an auto loan direct mailer to an online application.
I like this approach. It garners attention for the offer, but the narrow banner disappears permanently once users click the X in the upper-right corner.
However, this extra attention can be a mixed blessing. It’s great for those members that received the offer (and remembered they did). But for everyone else, they are left scratching their heads after clicking "more info."
The landing page doesn’t mention how to check whether you were one of the chosen recipients or how you might otherwise qualify for the deal. It also does nothing to reinforce the offer, which apparently was for an auto refinance. The slim copy simply points everyone to the generic online application.
Bottom line: The yellow bar across the top is a great way to grab attention. But, you need to answer basic questions about the promo or you risk irritating members (seenote.
Off topic: The CU is nicely decked out for the holidays with three timely messages among its five rotating promos:
Visa Gift Cards, which unfortunately, require a trip to the branch to purchase (see first screenshot)
Double rewards points for using its Visa card in December
General holiday greeting, which leads to a YouTube picture collage with music
Pelican State Credit Union adds an Auto loan promo reminder at top of page (18 Dec 2012) Note: The CU also is nicely decked out for the holidays.
Landing page for Auto Loan Refinance mailer Note: Blank box on left makes the page look like something is broken.
——————————— Note: 1. The CU has a prominent "chat now" button, so interested members could potentially get a quick answer there, assuming CSRs manning the chat are equipped to determine eligibility.
During the past few years we’ve reported on Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions at financial institutions (last year). ING Direct is the only large bank that has consistently used the post-Thanksgiving holiday in its marketing (see below) and we are glad to see it continue under Capital One ownership.
This year we found another new entrant for our database of holiday offers, 42,000 member Oklahoma Employees Credit Union. It has a prominent black tag on its homepage announcing a "Black Friday Money $ale" (see first screenshot).
And from the looks of it, the CU has created a pretty hot offer, leading with car loans as low as 1.49% with no payment due for 90 days (well after holiday spending subsides). But that’s just one of the seven holiday offers (second screenshot). The CU is also offering:
From Black Friday to Cyber Monday (Nov 23 to 26)
1.49% APR* on New or Used Auto Loans
1.00% APR^ Off Unsecured Loans
Surcharge Free Gift Cards***
Black Friday to the End of the Year (Nov 23 to Dec 31)
90 days no pay**
$149 Mortgage Loan Origination Fee^^
$49 Credit*^ with New MasterCard
0.49%tt Business Loan Origination Fee
Oklahoma Employees Credit Union homepage with Black Friday specials (Wed, 21 Nov 2012)
ING Direct homepage with Black Friday offers (21 Nov 2012)
ING Direct Black Friday teaser page (link) Note: The bank does not reveal the actual offers until midnight Thursday
Fine print on Oklahoma Employees Credit Union offers:
*Annual Percentage Rate. 640+ credit score. Max term 60 months; estimated payment $17.31 per $1,000 borrowed. Min amount $10,000. Existing OECU loan min advance $2,500. Requires automatic payments and eStatements. ** Borrower may defer initial auto loan payment up to 90 days. Interest will accrue from date of advance. ^ Annual Percentage Rate. Reduction from regular earned rate as determined by credit score. *** Up to 5 cards ^^ Max 12 years up to $250,000 and 75% loan-to-value as determined by appraisal or AVM. *^ Initial transaction must be made by 1/10/13. Credit to be issued by 2/10/13. tt Owner occupied commercial real estate. Max loan $500,000. Additional closing costs may apply. Normal lending policies apply.
While the launch of a mobile-optimized version of your online banking site is no longer news on the national level, it’s still important for your customers. And the launch will generate many questions starting with “How much” then, “Is it secure” followed by, “How tricky is it to use.”
Video tour for the YouTube crowd, those willing to sit still for a few minutes while it downloads and plays
Live demo, where the DIY/ADD crowd can get right at it, plugging their username/password into the emulator and accessing their own account data
FAQs where the “manual readers” of the world can check out all the do’s and don’ts before trying it
The CU makes it clear the offering is FREE but overlooks a key member concern: security. It is question number three of the mobile FAQ, but for those of us who don’t read manuals, a graphical security icon or link would be a good addition to the page.
What it means The Beehive sites illustrate two trends:
Developing a full Web presence from a blogging template
Creating custom websites for geographic areas or individual branches
While I like what Beehive is doing, I hope they take it to the next level and create a more customized experience by letting branch employees add content themselves or at least control some aspects of the microsites.
USAA is no longer the only financial institution offering consumers the ability to deposit paper checks from the comfort of home using standard home scanning technology (see previous coverage here).
Through DepoZip, a new offering from Massachusetts-based corporate credit union, EasCorp, five northeastern credit unions have recently begun offering remote deposit capture services for their members. In addition, Austin, TX-based Randolph-Brooks FCU is slated to launch it later this spring.
According to its published prices, the cost is $15,000 to implement the program ($5,000 for the license and $10,000 for training), then $100/mo plus $0.40 per active user plus $0.01 per its plus applicable image processing fees which range from $0.03 to $0.14 per item. Compared to manually handling deposits at the teller window, that’s a bargain.
In researching our latest report on P2P lending, we visited the websites of Zopa's six credit union partners to see how they were promoting, and explaining, the relatively complicated new product. Overall, they gave Zopa surprising prominence. Five of the six mention it on their homepages, with three of those running large banners, usually in rotation with other offers (see list below as observed on Dec. 6). USA Federal Credit Union is the lone holdout, with no mention of Zopa on its website so far.
Analysis I understand why the credit unions are featuring their Zopa relationship. It's new, it's different, it's exciting and the helping-others message fits right in with the holiday spirit. However, for the most part, the program is woefully under-explained when clicking through the banners. I have to believe the most common member reaction to seeing the Zopa product info is, "Huh?"
It must lead to some interesting conversations on the phone and in the branch. Some of which may result in sales, so it's not all bad. But I don't think the ultimate purpose of partnering with Zopa is to confuse members to the extent that they call. There are easier ways to do that.
Examples First Tech CU has two images on its homepage, both emphasizing Zopa's core message of helping. And the educational aspect is helpful (see screenshot below).
Addison Avenue CU takes a light-hearted approach on its homepage ad, saying:
Introducing Zopa (And no, it isn't a new energy drink)
And Addison Avenue does the best job explaining the service, although I still think it raises more questions than it answers.