Posts Tagged ‘canada’

Credit Unions being a Cooperative

July 9, 2010

Recently, the “dot-coop” (or .coop) extension topic was brought up on EverythingCU.com. This question was about whether or not it’s a good idea for credit unions to use this domain extension to signal that they are part of the broader cooperative movement.

This leads to the question: does being a part of the broader cooperative movement still mean anything in today’s credit union world? The reason I like to raise this question is that I had been working with this movement for about eight years before I had ever heard of the Seven Cooperative Principles. I knew that credit unions were member-owned, members had equal voting power, and that they were run as not-for-profit financial institutions. But I didn’t put two and two together to realize that all of these things are principles of the larger Cooperative movement.

So I recently voiced this question in response to the .coop issue, and received a wonderful response from my friend Gene Blishen. Gene is an amazing guy; he walks the talk. He’s the CEO of a successful, small credit union in British Columbia, where he remains true to credit union and cooperative principles while running a productive operation, one which has done some excellent technological innovation based on improving service to the members.

For many credit unions, in the U.S. especially, being a Cooperative has little or no meaning. They are simply trying to be the best financial organization possible, while running under the not-for-profit banner. It’s not that these credit union professionals care any less about their members. They still want to do the best they can for them, and make their lives better. It’s just that they don’t see any significant purpose in the Cooperative movement, or perhaps don’t see how it fits in their workplace. And that’s fine.

Here is Gene’s response on the matter, also posted on his Tinfoiling blog:

I think there is an elephant in the room and it never gets invited to leave.

IF you read the 7 Co-operative principle on which most CUs were founded years ago they were important in the structure and culture of the credit unions. As the financial industry has advanced somehow those principles have been forgotten, neglected or just unknown.

If one makes a decision about anything there are some fundamentals that act when arriving at that decision. Without the knowledge of these principles then the decision gets hijacked by being made outside those principles. If we bring to focus these absolutes that are a given i.e. we need to make money, we need to compete and neglect to discuss and bring forward how we incorporate these values (principles) in our CUs we do an incredible disservice.

Of course we need to make money, I don’t think that is a principle that needed discussion when CUs started. Of course we need to compete, they started because they could compete. But what about democratic owner control? What does that mean in todays CU? Or the education principle? I think we don’t want to discuss those. Why? To be honest because we have failed to bring these to the important level they need to be, we have been too busy making sure we make money and are moving forward in the marketplace.

I look at a CU like a car. You get it into shape. You tune it up. You keep it working well. But is that all? No you then decide where you want to go with it. What destinations are available and when will you get there. You always pay attention to the operation of the vehicle otherwise you won’t get there. Just remember you have seven places to arrive at and the journey can be exciting and very interesting. Remember we do have GPS to get us where we are going these days! 🙂

Here is a related blog post I wrote on the 6th principle of Cooperatives, which is that Cooperatives cooperate with each other: Zucchinis and Credit Unions: Not strange bedfellows

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Gene Blishen: Mobile banking

October 2, 2008

Gene Blishen & coGene Blishen at the Partnership Symposium on Mobile Banking. Note: Gene’s small Mt. Lehman CU is doing amazing things in the mobile banking arena that billion dollar CUs don’t find feasible.

[Brent Dixon recorded this session on video here.]

Small CU in Vancouver area (3000 members), where 62% of all BC CU System assets are within a 15 minute drive.

Saw the internet would kill faxing in 1994.

Decided to integrate technology in house.

MemberNote came out of staff meeting. Text message sent when member uses card.

MemberNote 2: more variables needed for alerts. Turn on/off, balance included. Builds more based on what members say to front line.

Product is self-managed.

The difference between Push and Pull.

[Condition] {poll} +send alert message+ (a batch process)

Push operates differently: Occurs real time. Emergency alerts can be set up. Extensive logs. Housed at CU. Can tweak it internally based on member feedback.

1.) Transaction occurs: 2. Compared to the variables established by member about notification rules: 3. Alert is sent.

TextUs is second product. Built by third-party, along with 2nd largest CU in Alberta.
Can send a query (BAL or ACT) to short code then sends you a message back.

Released iPhone interface on same day iPhone was released in Canada. Same as TextUs, but on the iPhone.

History of checking account is available on iPhone.

Mobile banking is very broad. too new to have complete definition.

Can make transfers via phone, but not via mobile device yet. Believes it is a huge area for development.

Why is it popular?
Member note: Set and forget

TextUs- seeking information at various times for various reasons.

48% of members have POS/ATM card: 1343 members (must have to have MemberNote)

63% of cardbase use MemberNote

60% are active users (alerts within 90 days)

68% have more than 5 transactions per month

Biggest group using MemberNote: 29% 41-55; next is 28% 25-40; 23% are 56+!!!!! Only 11% are 18-24

Gene asks his members in the 56 years old and older group, “Why are you using this?” The answer: “I hardly used piece of plastic, but MemberNote tells us that the transaction is complete.” They feel secure about that!

Working on Version 3 now: Quantum leap in variables that you can receive alerts on. Will release Feb 2009. Still the only CU using Pull technology.

What does mobile banking do?
Another method to touch your members via SMS.
Gives the CU a unique position in marketplace.
Distribute communications.
Combats card fraud.
Makes you aware of current market conditions and trends.

Use it prudently and with common sense.

Create an engaged member. Transact with the engaged member. Educated your members about your products and services.

Next?
Web-based ATMs.
Chip cards and use of the chips “real estate”
Smart phones that allow specific programs, i.e. ATM locator.

Innovation:
bought all staff an iPhone when they came out.
comes from establishing the right culture at the CU. Not one individual, is collaborative.
Failure creates successes.
iSmart: Everything that his core processor isn’t

Q&A with the Shevlinator:
Q: Alerts: more than just a transaction? Deeper meaning?
A: Natural extension of a phone call follow up. Technology allowing them to do what would happen manually. Member OWNS CU. Do they feel that they own it still? This helps make them feel like they own it and influence what is going on there. They know that no one else has this.

Q: Surveys to determine what they want?
A: They have conversations with the member. They ask them. What do you think? Staff are aware that this is a vital area. What do you want with MemberNote? Biggest thing? Payday. secondary: alimony payment goes through.

Q: ROI projections?
A: The board requires a certain amount of money to be made. Gene and staff does the rest. If they can’t make it, will sell it back to members rather than merge.

Q: Security and privacy concerns? This seems to be the opposite.
A: Members become evangelists for you. MEMBERS GET ALERT BEFORE THEY GET RECEIPT. They are proud of this, of their CU.

Q: Location based services?
A: Sent his devs to SF. With iPhone, location is a given.

Notes from Social Banking session at BCBBC

September 25, 2008

BCBBC08Had an amazing time connecting with some great people at BarCampBank BC. Here are my notes from the first session on Day Two, Sunday, on the social nature of the banking relationship. For notes from other sessions, see William Azaroff’s live blog series, which starts here and the Camp’s wiki page, which includes links to some video recordings.

How do you allow front line people time to socialize and do internal networking?
Answer from Gene Blishen: Listen to them, ask what is mundane, routine, that they hate, and figure out how to automate that.

Employer has to create an environment to allow this to happen. Have to be brave, to create this. create systems that empower employees.

Indecison= decision — wastes time and effort.

Internal social network

Have to have people who are excited to be where they are and tell their friends about it
otherwise, same as traditional marketing, which is pushing things out.

How do we change the conversation to be about social media relationship building and not so much ROA, or else how do we measure ROI of social?

Bank willing to lend to an entrepreneur with more social connections

Facebook as collections tool

Head of the comma: REI model — even though most don’t go into wilderness, REI needs to appeal/work for that group because the rest aspire to that.

Social Media Marketing Best Practice: Bridge the gap

September 10, 2008

For those of us who have been involved in the online world for more than a few years, the latest incarnation of the web is pretty exciting stuff. The connections and interactions via blogs, podcasts, twitter, Facebook, Flickr, friendfeed, YouTube, etc, brings us closer together with other people on the other side of the country, the other side of the world, or even in our own neighborhood in ways that have never been possible before.

There is some awareness of the echo-chamber nature of the social media world, but I’m not at all worried about that, mainly because the rate of adoption of these tools is picking up speed. I wonder how many people in the television industry were worrying about the rate of television adoption in the early 60s?

But when creating a social media marketing campaign, one has to remember that not everyone is connected using these tools, and even if they are, they’re not necessarily aware of you, or the fact that you’ve got some cool things happening online.

So another best practice: bridge the gap between social media and face-to-face interactions. I recently went to a restaurant in Boston with a sticker in the window that read “People love us on Yelp”. I had actually found the restaurant because I used the Yelp iPhone application to give me a restaurant recommendation near my current location.

Having the Yelp sticker in the window accomplishes two things: It welcomes Yelpers who arrive to the restaurant for the first time, making them feel special and at home. It also may create curiosity in non-Yelpers to check out that web site. And creates awareness for Yelp at the same time. This is a great example of bridging the gap, even when your virtual company has little or no physical presence.

Example number two of bridging the gap: One of the hottest social media campaigns, inside the credit union world or out, is Young and Free. The first incarnation launched in Alberta, Canada. Now there’s a sister campaign that has launched in Houston. One of the neatest aspects of getting this off the ground is the amazing Go Mobile/Guitar Hero/Info truck that Trey is driving around from event to musical event. Many young folks in the target demographic are using social media and networking tools, but they wouldn’t necessarily come across the campaign unless there is some bridge from their world to finding the CU’s social media site. This fun, tricked-out truck, which is camping out at events that young folks are at fits the bill perfectly.

What marketing efforts do you see that nicely bridge the gap between the online and physical worlds?

Showdown, Texas-style

August 12, 2008

On Sunday night, I found out why Trey Reeme has been very quiet on the credit union/social media scene since the beginning of the year. It’s because he’s been working to bring Tim McAlpine and Currency Marketing’s Young & Free Alberta campaign to Trey’s new credit union, TDECU (fka Texas Dow Employees’ CU). This news was twittered very quickly Sunday night, with Bryan Sims being the first outsider to discover it the night before the official launch.

Yesterday, launch day of Young & Free Texas, it has been blogged by William Azaroff and Trey Reeme, Tim McAlpine, and Ben Rogers, and reported by CU Times, Reuters, and Forbes.

This exciting news, the Young & Free campaign’s launch and license for the first time in the United States, was tempered with the news that another credit union in Texas has copied (emulated?) the Young & Free concept (reported by The Financial Brand), in most, if not all, details.

This brings up the issue of financial institution branding in the internet age.

In the old days, it was easy. There was no way someone in Alberta, Canada would ever encounter something from Houston, Texas. And only traveling professionals would have regular visits between Houston (HQ area of TDECU) and Dallas (HQ of Resource 1 CU). But the internet has changed all that. With three clicks of a mouse, someone can view Young & Free Alberta, Young & Free Texas, and Resource 1 CU’s MyLifeMyMoney . And in fact, googling “Young Free” today yields the Alberta campaign as the first two results, and William Azaroff’s blog post about the Texas launch near the bottom of the page.

MyLifeMyMoney could suffer the same fate as the stellar BBC sitcom “Coupling” when it was translated from British to American TV. Coupling has six main characters, three men and three women, and the series explores the humor of their personal lives, and male/female dating and stereotypes. The BBC original is delightful, unexpected, and original. When Friends ended its 11-year hit run, NBC needed something to replace it, and purchased an American version of Coupling. But rather than re-interpret the British version in an American style, it simply copied the BBC original, line for line. The only difference was the American actors, and a few changed words such as ‘lorry’ to ‘truck’. Whether or not you had seen the British original, the American version stunk. It was flat. It had no sparkle, no charm, no pizzazz, all the things which made the British version wonderful. Even though 99% of American audiences had no idea that it was a copy of a show across the pond, no one watched it, and it was promptly cancelled.

This is what Resource 1 CU’s MyLifeMyMoney is. Nearly identical in most regards (spokesperson contest, online voting, etc), just changing the words and switching the graphics. Copying the surface, without understanding the depth. The first difference I see in MyLifeMyMoney is the declaration that the campaign is aimed at 18-35 year olds. What an 18 year-old and a 35-year old have in common is that they eat and breathe. And not much else. (A smart credit union marketing professional recently updated her Facebook status saying 30 is too old to come up with effective marketing strategies for the 18 to 21 age group. When will financial institutions understand that a.) it’s not about age and b.) even if it is about age, you don’t need to say it in your ads — Hey you! If you are between the ages of 26 and 34, pay attention because this ad is aimed at your wallet! Otherwise, never mind and go away!) MyLifeMyMoney also uses generic, cheesy, typical stock photography showing happy white people who could be anywhere. There is nothing that says “Texas” or local about these generic images, which is in stark contrast to Young & Free. Another social media misstep is that blog posts on the site are unsigned. Nothing says “corporate” more than faceless blog postings.

The final area where MyLifeMyMoney seems to fall short is that the actual value that a young person gets is unclear. On the surface it seems like a bunch of fancy names for services the credit union offers anyway. Free online banking? Who doesn’t offer that? Free live call center? Free ATM deposits? Free drive thru? Free direct deposit? Does ANY FI charge for these things? Free 8 locations? What, if you are older, you are charged for walking into a branch? Thud.

Resource 1 CU appears to have copied the surface appearance of Young & Free, while making mistakes on critical social media aspects.

In contrast to the hit BBC show “Coupling”, the BBC hit sitcom “The Office” made the leap across the Atlantic very differently than Coupling’s straight-out copy. The Office retained the name and core concept in translation, but was completely re-interpreted in an American style. And the results have been a runaway success on both sides of the pond. This is my hope for Young & Free’s translation south of the 49th parallel.

However, even Young & Free Texas has the potential to be less successful than Young & Free Alberta. As I mentioned, googling Young Free results in the Young Free Alberta site showing for the first two results. How will this be resolved? What is the best that Young Free Texas can hope for? Five Alberta results and five Texas results? What kind of confusion is that going to create in young potential members? What are young people going to think when they see Alberta videos mixed in with Texas videos on YouTube? Never mind the potential confusion that will occur once other states join the fray. Are Texans going to take kindly to the fact that they are second-class citizens, copying the magic that is occurring in Alberta? Texans have built their brand on being the biggest and best. Texans don’t take kindly to being second-fiddle at ANYTHING. You can’t hide things on the internet. Texans WILL find Young Free Alberta. The questions are how much, how often, and will they care? Because I like both Tim and Trey so much, and I love the Young & Free campaign and everything Larissa has done as Spokester, I would like to see them and Young & Free be successful in Texas as well. I even thought about NOT writing about Resource 1’s version of Young and Free. But that would be not accomplish anything. It’s on teh INTER-NETS. It’s out there for EVERYONE to see. Everyone can see the strategy of Resource 1. It’s not like if I don’t write about it that it will go away. It’s already out there. (A video from Larissa/Young & Free Alberta shows up as the third ‘related video’ result on YouTube when viewing the MyLifeMyMoney spokester search explanation video.

Young & Free Alberta’s success is definitely not solely due to Larissa Walkiw’s talent and charm. Young & Free Alberta has three primary success factors going for it: 1.) It’s completely new and innovative; no financial institution has ever done anything like this. 2.) The CU has a unique product (free checking) which no other F.I. has in Alberta. 3.) The campaign gives young people a true voice, not only through spokesperson Larissa, but through the unique Albertan events that Larissa covers in person and shoots videos and blogs about.

Young and Free Texas will have number three on the above list, but will not have number one, and number two is questionable. I’m not sure how the Go2Account stacks up against not only what TDECU offers, but against other FIs in Texas. I’m not sure what Dual Checking and Savings accounts mean, but checking accounts are already free at TDECU.

Will Young & Free Texas equal the success of Young & Free Alberta without a clearly compelling and differentiating product? Will Resource 1 CU learn enough on the fly about social media to make MyLifeMyMoney successful and be able to overcome the lack of a differentiating product?

Update: Now that I have listened to Trey’s phone conversation with Mark McSpadden, I have learned that Trey acknowledges 1.) The hope that Young & Free Texans commune with Young & Free Albertans and any other future Young & Free’ers and 2.) that he and TDECU decided to proceed with launching Young & Free Texas despite not being able to launch the corresponding youth product in the way that they had wanted. However neither of these points is apparent (or matters) to outsiders or the target audience.

O, Canada!

April 18, 2008

There are now two exciting new developments in EverythingCU.com’s Online Switch Kit. Three months ago we added a Spanish-language version to make it easy for Spanish-speaking potential members to join a credit union. Last month we converted the Online Switch Kit to work north of the border for our friends in Canada. We’re delighted to announce that our first Canadian Credit Union has signed on, from the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island.

If you are a current Online Switch Kit client, and you haven’t visited it in a while, check out your new stats page for a much more detailed report of your members’ usage of it.

Time to retire the penny

April 4, 2008

This morning I read a blog entry from Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing explaining that there is a proposal to eliminate the Canadian penny on its centennial. This reminded me that my first experience with a penniless currency was the year that I lived in the Netherlands. I don’t know what the current conversion rate is with U.S. dollars, but at the time, their guilder was worth about 40¢. This meant their penny would have been worth much less than a U.S. penny, and in fact, they had eliminated it from their currency. In cash transactions, everything was rounded to the nearest nickel, which was worth about as much as a U.S. penny.

About the only thing that U.S. pennies are good for are for reconciliation purposes in check and debit transactions, and we can keep their theoretical existence there, but eliminate their physical manifestation. This would save the U.S. govenment a large amount of money in continuing to mint these nearly worthless coins. It now costs a little more than a penny to mint a penny. I’m sure the only reason we’re hanging on to this appendix is fear of inflation. I don’t think the Dutch economy experienced any inflation when they abandoned their penny, so I think it’s time we abandon ours. Just think of how excited all the numistmatists will be! That will make their penny collections much more valuable. What do you think?

P2P Lending launches in Canada

February 13, 2008

P2P Lending has been in Great Britain since 2005 in the form of Zopa. Prosper launched a year later in the U.S., followed by Lending Club, Circle Lending/Virgin Money, and Zopa in the US. I’ve checked in with Prosper from time to time, and as I’ve reported before, it’s growing at an astonishing rate.

Now, William Azaroff of Vancity CU and Jim Bruene of NetBanker report that today IOU Central has launched, giving Canada its first forum for P2P Lending.

FacebookCampToronto

October 15, 2007

Toronto's CN TowerLast week, I had the pleasure of going to Toronto for FacebookCampToronto. I already knew a little bit about Facebook, but I didn’t realize that I was only scratching the surface of this site that is yet another revolution in social media. MySpace isn’t going to disappear any time soon, but Facebook is definitely where the real action is happening. Facebook may very well supplant LinkedIn as the social network for professionals, and that has already happened in Silicon Valley, London, and Toronto.

Having been involved with social media since 2000 (only we didn’t call it social media back then), it’s readily apparent to me that the hype surrounding Facebook is not hype– it’s real. Facebook has the potential to change the way many people conduct their online lives. No wonder Facebook’s founder has turned down an offer for $1 billion to buy his company.

The highlights of what I learned at FacebookCampToronto: Toronto rocks, and in general, Canucks kick our butt when it comes to culture. Toronto is delightfully international in flavor. There are now 44 million people now using Facebook, which is about double from where it was back in May when they announced the open application interface. Canada and UK are two of the fastest growing countries using Facebook– even faster than the U.S. London has the most people using Facebook with 1.1 million. Toronto has the second most with 800,000, and 11 of the top 30 FB cities in the world are Canadian.

Like all social media, success in Facebook comes from empowering the user, and enabling people to share and make connections with each other. New applications are being developed at an amazing rate. People who are on Facebook use it a LOT. The developer of MyAquarium grew his installed base to 8 million people — in three months. There are numerous way to conduct marketing within Facebook. By far the best, most effective way is to have your application send messages to the user’s mini-feed, some of which will then make it to the main news feed. The mini-feed and main news feed concepts are they keys to what make Facebook successful, and keeps its participants coming back. And with imagination, you can tap into these feeds. We humans are social creatures, and when we see our friends doing something, our instinct is to check out what’s going on too. Facebook allows you to see what your friends are up to….brilliant!

Two financial applications were discussed during the various presentations. FacebookCampTorontoLending Club was briefly mentioned, and Split It (covered in detail by William Azaroff at Net Banker) was discussed as an example of a large corporation sponsoring a useful application targeted especially at college kids.

I also met some new friends, some from Montreal as well as Toronto, at the party afterward. They are all great people, fascinating characters, and are working on some pretty amazing projects.