By Brandi Stankovic
Partner, Mitchell Stankovic & Associateshttp://wecu2.org/2015/02/23/bdcu-understanding-your-money/
Boulder Dam Credit Union is $500 million financial institution with 20,000 members and just under 45 employees. Snuggled in the heart of small town Boulder City, NV this community credit union serves businesses, families and generations of people stemming from the building of Hoover Dam.
BDCU exemplifies the “member for life” concept by maintaining relationships with members starting at a very young age and continuing throughout their various life stages and transitions. Meeting member needs with exceptional service is not only BDCU’s philosophy, it is a must for survival. Penetration rates and cross-selling take on a new meaning when the field of membership potential is controlled and actually lower than the current membership totals.
At the core of the BDCU business model? Not payment innovation. Not non-interest income. Not social media or mobile strategy. Although they enthusiastically participate in all of these areas. The core of BDCU’s business is trust. The credit union believes that without trust all innovative technological touch-points or dividend-based incentives are null.
How do you build trust with the youth in a world of super-saturated financial choice? We believe the answer is Commitment and Authenticity. And with over 85% penetration of the millennial demographic (ages 18-29) in the field of membership, we are celebrating success.
I grew up with Boulder Dam Credit Union, opening my first Moola-Moola account in 1989. So in 2003, when the credit union asked me to help create a financial literacy program to reach the high schoolers in the community, I was thrilled! Jaron Singleton, long-time credit union employee and childhood friend, joined the cause. The board of directors and executive team decided to make this program special from the start, offering $100 to seniors and $50 to juniors to certify in the 3-hour class.
We built the first “Understanding Your Money” (UYM) program based on the principles credit unions were teaching their members across the US: Checking, Credit, and Savings. When I taught the first class of UYM, I was barely older than the high school attendees. My younger brother’s friends heckled me from the back of the room. And although the students learned, we didn’t change their lives.
Teaching financial basics was not enough.
We wanted to make a greater impact. The program quickly grew and evolved into a life coaching session for young people that includes: Goal-setting, the credit union difference, budgeting, debit and credit, and preparing for the future. Creating authentic dialogue with young people about concerning topics, such as – What if I choose not to go to college? How much do babies really cost? What happens to my mom now that she lost the house? – is our path to building life-long relationships.
In our Saturday sessions we learn every student’s name. We talk about how money impacts their life. We learn about their needs. And we always communicate that our only goal is for them to know that they have a CHOICE. They are in charge of their future, financially and otherwise. Every example we use is based upon issues and situations they are facing. We teach the “basics” of financial management, but we also teach the basics of life. We simulate reality: creating checklists and goals for applying to college; reconciling forgotten late night Taco Bell charges on their accounts using mobile banking and online bill pay; and budgeting for emergency car service. We laugh, learn, and exchange invaluable knowledge.
How has this program impacted BDCU?
• Over 2,500 student UYM graduates
• 85%+ penetration of 18-29 year olds in the field of membership
• 90%+ of high schoolers in the community have taken the course before they graduate
• 82% of the graduates of UYM are still members in good standing
• 4% of graduates have no activity and only 2% of graduates have charged off
• 35%+ of UYM graduates have a loan product with the credit union bringing profitability to the investment
Now, as you can imagine the world has changed over the last 12 years, and this program has significantly evolved. In 2003, the students learned to write a check and save up for a CD player. In 2008, they learned about over-leveraged debt and foreclosures. In 2011, rising gas prices and recovering from credit disasters. In 2015, we will budget for insurance and learn about payment innovations.
How has BDCU changed?
Transition of CEO to Eric Estes that continues the fervor and passion for serving the youth. New employees and board members over the years that enthusiastically participate. How has my life changed? Only a college graduation, 4 jobs, 3 cars, 2 babies, a marriage, and buying a home. These changes and evolutions illustrate how absolutely essential our connection to the youth really is. In the last 12 years of any millennial’s life, they have made some of the greatest financial decisions they will ever make, while increasing their earning potential and beginning to wonder about fancy words like home equity or net worth. They have established financial opinions, patterns, and habits. And Boulder Dam Credit Union is actively participating in these decisions and behaviors.
Now, over the years, some things have NOT changed:
• BDCU’s Board and Executive team’s commitment to the youth.
• Jaron Singleton’s leadership on all young adult initiatives.
• The program’s fun, authentic and non-threatening discussions about life.
• Participation by hundreds of high school students each semester.
• Completion of a financial literacy certification by every student in order to receive $100 or $50 into their savings account.
• And I teach every class.
As the evolution continues, BDCU is transitioning the lessons learned to other demographics in the membership as well. Education and literacy is not just important for the youth, it is essential for all members. These product offerings and outreach are stems of the core trust-based relationship philosophy. Boulder Dam Credit Union will continue to strive for excellence through differentiating their member experience.