12 Ways To Invigorate A Closed Field Of Membership

How a small San Diego credit union uncovered a novel way to catch the attention of non-members.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • East County Schools FCU’s 2018 strategic planning meeting also served as a re-visioning meeting, where everything was on the table but its field of membership.
  • During the one-day session, the credit union developed 12 areas of interest for 2018 and beyond.

Every year, East County Schools Federal Credit Union ($108.3M, El Cajon, CA) holds a strategic planning meeting not too far from its east San Diego-area headquarters. During the session, key stakeholders review the past year and plan for what’s coming in the year ahead.


East County Schools FCU
Data as of 09.30.17

HQ: El Cajon, CA
ASSETS: $108.3M
MEMBERS: 4,343
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 11.0%
ROA: 0.48%

But the credit union’s planning meeting for 2018 was different it was much larger in scope.

The credit union exclusively serves employees and family members of 15 school districts within East County, CA. In its October 2017 meeting, East County put all its cards on the table: The credit union was going to re-envision itself with a blank canvas, says CEO Steven Devan.

Our only sacred cow was our field of membership, Devan says. Otherwise, we weren’t thinking outside the box, we were thinking without a box.

Steven Devan, CEO, East County Schools FCU

Face To Face With A Closed FOM

As a smaller, SEG-based credit union in one of the country’s larger cities, East County bases its business model on the ideas of consistency and sustainability. It doesn’t launch products or services it can’t follow through on, and it always keeps its school district employees top-of-mind when considering new opportunities.

This is important because, despite its closed field of membership , the credit union’s reach is expansive, Devan says. To reach its members, East County doesn’t advertise with billboards, on radio, or in the newspaper. According to Devan, those channels target too many non-members. ContentMiddleAd

Instead, the institution with 18 employees sends representatives to every single school board meeting across its 15 districts. Not only does this put the credit union’s name and logo in front of members and potential members, it also gives the institution a leg up when determining what members need.

We’re there when the crowd goes from 100 to eight, Devan says. That’s meaningful because we tell them we’re different, and they can see that. No other financial institution is there.

Ready And Willing

East County’s in-person representation at school board meetings has implications for products and services as well as for branding and marketing.

Some years ago, one of the school districts considered starting the school year in September instead of August to save the district several million dollars. Although this change would not impact the teachers’ annual salary, it would cut their number of paychecks from 11 to 10.

Devan, who was at the school board meeting when this was discussed, told the leader of the teachers union that East County would offer an interest-free, 10-month loan for up to the amount of the dropped paycheck, should the school board fail to create its own solution.

In the end, the start date didn’t change, but the credit union displayed its willingness to bridge gaps in pay.

Cards On The Table

The afternoon session of East County’s one-day strategic planning meeting has traditionally been reserved for management and the board of directors. This past year, however, included some new faces around the table. That’s because East County invited a larger scope of participants.

As we’re trying to re-envision ourselves, shouldn’t we invite those we are trying to serve? Devan asks. They know better than we do what’s affecting them. If they don’t tell us, we don’t know.

So, East County invited human resource employees from its member school districts to participate in planning. Eight employees attended, six of whom were not credit union members.

In addition, the credit union invited two millennials. One of them was a credit union member, the other was not. Neither worked in finance. One enjoyed the process so much, she’s becoming an official board member in February 2018.

All told, 45 people attended East County’s 2018 planning session. To avoid letting a few voices dominate the flow of ideas, East County asked attendees to anonymously submit ideas whether for a product, service, or discussion point such as Uber cash on a 3×5 card. The credit union then collected the cards, there were 150 in all, read and discussed them aloud and sorted them into 12 categories:

  • Technology (Mobile, online new member account opening)
  • Branch Configuration/Functionality (modern look and feel, self-service functionality, Saturday hours)
  • Web Services/Development (Updated website, website and apps designed for ease of use)
  • Training (Product and security training for members, fraud prevention)
  • Mobile/Video Banking (FaceTime with members, live chat on mobile and online, on-site appointments)
  • Member Rewards (Cash vs. points)
  • Financial Planning (Loan Doctor for financial checkups, PERS/STRS counseling)
  • Cashless Environment (Electronic forms of cash)
  • Remote Services (Uber Cash, create a walk-in-feel to online services, continue to place ATMs at school district offices)
  • Changes In Policy (More options for low-income families)
  • Employee Flexibility (Telecommuting)
  • Community Engagement (Centralized purchasing, a GoFundMe program for teachers, create Financial Wellness Computer Lab for students and school employees)

East County will be working through the ideas it uncovered across 2018. And its approach this year to strategic planning uncovered another benefit: The investment of high-level decision-makers in its districts. To wit, East County has opened new ATMs in the main offices of three school boards.

Human resource folks are the gatekeepers to SEGs everywhere. They run orientations, health fairs, and create new hire packets. For East County, showing these employees how committed it is to members has gone a long way to achieving new access.

We thought these non-members would be the least engaged people at our planning session, Devan says. But that wasn’t the case. We heard: We knew you, but until we got here we didn’t realize you guys actually walk the talk.’


January 30, 2018

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