In October, CUNA presented the 2014 Community Credit Union of the Year Award to two credit unions for their exemplary displays of community involvement and positive influence in the field of service.
Among the winners was AmeriCU Credit Union, Rome, N.Y., which received first place among credit unions with more than $250 million in assets.
Erin Reed, AmeriCU's marketing coordinator, shares insights about her credit union's initiatives in a Q&A with Credit Union Magazine.
CU Mag: In what ways do you contribute to your members’ communities?
Reed: Our members and communities are at the heart of AmeriCU’s continued growth and success. AmeriCU and our employees support the charities and causes that are important to our communities. It takes a great deal of extra time, effort, and dedication to accomplish that. In the past 18 months, we estimate that our staff has contributed more than 3,500 hours working for more than 75 local nonprofit organizations including the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, the USO, and the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division. With every initiative we undertake, with every financial center we open, every event and charity we sponsor, we are singularly focused on delighting our members and contributing in real ways to the communities in which they live, work, worship, and attend school.
CU Mag: What impact have the “Big Blue” ATM kiosks made? Do you see members taking advantage of more accessibility to your credit union?
Reed: AmeriCU’s next-generation BIG BLUE Kiosks allow members to bank 24/7 without having to rely on traditional banking hours. Our members take advantage of all that Big Blue has to offer, including accessing their accounts with or without their VISA check/debit card; paying their mortgage, loans and/or credit cards; transferring funds between shares; printing official checks; stopping payments on checks; making withdrawals; making cash and check deposits; changing their address information; printing mini-statements and presetting their preferences for language, receipts and "fast cash" withdrawals. Transactions at our kiosks increase every month. With kiosk technology in place, AmeriCU is able to extend the relationship with our membership outside of the financial centers.
CU Mag: Do you have any new projects/initiatives you’re working on?
Reed: AmeriCU is always looking ahead to implementing the latest technologies to provide our members exceptional service and convenient, safe, 24/7 access to their accounts. We recently launched completely reinvented online banking and mobile apps for our members, we’re in the first stages of working with Apple to provide ApplePay, and we’re planning a new and improved system for fraud alerts.
CU Mag: What progress have you seen with the “Switch Agent” tool? Has it made it more appealing for new members to join?
Reed: SwitchAgent; a secure and automated account switch service, makes it easier for members to move their preauthorized debits and deposits from another financial institution to their new or existing account at AmeriCU and become a fully anchored member of the credit union. In 2014, this product assisted more than 50 members with their switches, but in 2015 we will be introducing an automated version. We think that the automated version will be even more appealing to members, and make the transition to AmeriCU more seamless than ever.
CU Mag: What are some challenges you’ve faced in the past, and how did you overcome them?
Reed: One of the biggest challenges we have faced and are facing is how rapidly technology is changing the way people use financial services. Increasingly, in addition to competition from local and national banks and other credit unions, we are facing competition from nontraditional financial services providers such as Walmart, PayPal, and Google. Our approach to facing this challenge is twofold. First, we are focused on doing what makes us stand apart—providing excellent member service through personal connections with our members and deep involvement in the community. Second, we have committed to aggressively pursuing innovative technologies and products. AmeriCU believes that this combination of local and technological services is the best way to meet the needs of our members.
CU Mag: What’s the best advice you can give other community CUs?
Reed: Our members and the communities we serve are the biggest factor in our success and, as a community credit union, we must support and be engaged in the community 100%. First, it is essential to remember that members trust us to be a partner with them at the most important moments in their lives—getting their first car, buying a home, paying for college, retirement, etc.—and as a community credit union, members' success is our success. Therefore, we keep the best interest of our members and our community at the heart of all of our decision making. Second, employees are the best ambassadors a credit union has. AmeriCU hires and supports employees who are dedicated to member service, volunteer their time, give back to their community, and hold community leadership positions.