Horizon Credit Union - 1One of the most successful select employee group (SEG) programs in the country is Horizon Credit Union ($535 million; Idaho). They created a “Here2Help” concept that connected with both members and potential members. Below is part two of a Q&A with Josh Allison, CUDE, relationship development manager, for Horizon Credit Union

(1)                How can credit unions be perceived as partners and not vendors with their SEGs?

Instead of trying to gain access to employees to “sell” the credit unions’ products and services, we transitioned to that of a department focused on “sharing” how the credit union was there to help their employees. This allowed us to build employer advocates, who would then give us access to their employees “to help” via financial workshops, counseling and even branch manager referrals for budgeting and credit report reviews. In addition, because we infused a powerful story about WHY Horizon exists, it made the promotion of WHAT we offer that much easier. The value of the credit union, then, extends beyond the commoditized products and services we offer, and to that of a member and community advocate. Once the employers understood the credit union difference, and they were aware of the vast amount of predatory (or profit-driven) lenders who are being used by their employees, we became partners with them to help protect their employees from financial stress and other financial institutions who don’t have their employees best interest at heart.

(2)                What is the difference between “selling” versus “sharing” when it comes to business development?

Selling often times focuses on product or service features. But sharing has a different connotation – it implies sharing a story. When you share your purpose first, your products can take on a different meaning and purpose in the eyes of members and consumers. Our approach has been to share (why) first, sell (what) second.

(3)                What is THE most important thing credit unions should focus on when it comes to their business development efforts?

Credit unions should ask themselves: “How do we be relevant to our Community Business Partners?”not “How can we sell to them and their employees?” Focus first on building relevant relationships with Community Business Partnerships. Focus on being as relevant as possible by meeting unmet employee and employer needs. Financial stress is one of the top five work stressors, and few organizations are more equipped to educate and advocate on behalf of employers than credit unions. Once you build trust with employers, you can then transition to promoting the credit union’s products and services with their employees.