Local Focus Pays Off for Arizona CU

 ‘For every $100 spent at a local business, nearly $75 stays in the community.’

January 13, 2012

Who: Paul Stull

What: SVP, strategy and brand

Where: Arizona State CU, Phoenix

In October 2011, Arizona State CU achieved its highest monthly membership growth in more than a decade: We did it by focusing on our local roots. We’ve been monitoring consumer sentiment for some time and knew there was a strong preference to buy local. Even big chain grocery stores feature locally produced products. It was clear this was a trend that could serve credit unions well. We created a campaign featuring television, radio, and newspaper ads around the values of being part of a credit union. That campaign was running when Bank of America announced its infamous debit card fee, so we benefitted from already having a positive message out there. In marketing, it’s all about what’s next, not what’s happening now. We were ahead of the trend.

How we prepared for the influx of deposits: We were concerned that more deposits could affect capital, but we’re well-capitalized and have plenty of room for growth. The trick is to get new members to accept additional products. We’re already running a welcoming program and will focus special lending offers on these new members. Our ability to get them to fully participate in the cooperative is a priority because it brings better rates and service to all members.

Arizona State CU sets itself apart from the competition by: Providing a solid value proposition to our members. We provide not only great service, but also competitive rates. And we show how we benefit the community. Consumers increasingly want to know not only what they get for themselves, but what the credit union does to make a difference in their community. Our goal is to continue to refine that value proposition and to clearly show how we’re unique among financial services providers.

Our lending priorities are local: We support local retail consumers and member business owners. We’ve also had increased interest in mortgage lending, both purchase and refinance. We closed a little over $22 million in mortgages during the month of October, and business continues to increase. Our direct auto lending volume has increased nearly 7% compared to last year. We like to focus on the value credit union lending brings to both borrowers and the community. Our deposits return to the community in the form of homes, cars, and growing local businesses. These are truly Arizona loans for Arizona people as they grow jobs and strengthen communities.

We support local businesses through: Our member business lending program and participation in organizations that promote local businesses. For every $100 spent at a local business, nearly $75 stays in the community. We also promote the fact that credit union deposits return to the community and create jobs. We partner with other locally owned businesses to promote community activities, including a minor league hockey team.

Our CU is a five-time winner of Arizona Business Magazine’s “Ranking Arizona” award: It’s always an honor to receive this award because it’s the largest business opinion poll in Arizona. It gives the general public the opportunity to vote on the state’s purveyors of business and leisure activities. Because this award comes purely through voters’ opinions, we get a good pulse on the community’s thoughts about the quality of our products and services. It’s humbling to know so many would recommend our service to others, and even more reason to continue meeting the needs of local Arizonans.

We’ve also received the Peter Barron Stark & Associates Award for Workplace Excellence four times: This award is given to companies that use Stark’s employee opinion survey program and score an overall favorable response of 80% or higher. This is significant because it signifies employees’ true opinions of the credit union. The more we can provide an enjoyable work environment that meets associates’ individual needs, the more willing they’ll be to give back to the credit union, helping us to produce quality products and services that meet members’ needs. 

I came to Arizona to: Work with Dave Doss, our credit union’s president/CEO. His reputation as a forward-thinker and major contributor to the credit union movement made this a great opportunity. Working with him has been outstanding. I’m proud to be part of his executive team.

My favorite getaway destinations are: In Arizona. The state has it all—from the cool pines of Flagstaff, to the sunny desert of Phoenix. There isn’t much reason to get away from a state that has such a diverse climate, and all within a few hours’ drive.

A personal goal for the near future: I’ve always been interested in air travel and I’m a big fan of air traffic controllers. I spend a lot of time listening to them safely guide hundreds of flights to their final destinations. The art and skill of their work generally go unnoticed. While I won’t ever work as a controller, my personal goal is to train on a simulator and gain a better understanding of what it takes to work in a business where every decision is critical, and thinking ahead is the only way to avoid disaster.

Historical figure I admire most: I’ve always been a big fan of Samuel Clemens; better known as Mark Twain. He was a master of using humor to make a point, and he was clearly ahead of his time. His skill for making poignant observations and getting a laugh at the same time is inspiring.