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Five Keys to Growing Business Deposits – One Credit Union’s Story

By Larry Middleman, President/CEO

Credit unions are looking to build long-term, meaningful relationships with their business members. Leading business lending credit unions realize that a robust, comprehensive deposit program is often the best way to capture the full relationship of larger, more sophisticated operating businesses.

At CU Business Group’s 2016 National Business Services Conference in Reston, Virginia, Mike Blosser, vice president of business services with Interra Credit Union presented a workshop on “Reaching New Levels in Business Deposits”.

Mike Blosser, Interra Credit Union

Mike Blosser, Interra Credit Union

Interra Credit Union ($1 billion, Goshen, IN) has long focused on the agricultural sector.  With 16 branches and 67,000 members, the Credit Union was embarking on a new strategic vision to serve 100,000 members by 2019. In support of this vision, Interra’s senior management has identified growing business core deposits as a key to the cooperative’s long-term success.

Yet management recognized that the Credit Union faced several daunting challenges in achieving this objective. The first was deciding how to pivot focus from its traditional reliance on small business and consumer members, to larger companies that had a need for cash management and other higher-end capabilities.

The Credit Union also bumped up against the limited operational and reporting capabilities of its core system, and needed to bridge critical training gaps within the IT and eServices departments, as well as among front-line staff.

Bob Brenneman, Director of Lending at Park View Federal Credit Union ($168 million, Harrisonburg, VA) a CU Business Group conference attendee, sat in on Interra’s session. The topic was timely for his organization.

“We are figuring out where we want to be in a couple of years from now,” Brenneman said. “We need to do a lot of strategic planning, get some expertise, and hire a few more people to make that next step. We want to offer more services to capture the full business relationship because we have just been so focused on the lending side.”

As Interra’s management dove into their project, they discovered five keys to creating a successful business deposits program, including:

1. Implement the right technology

At the time, Interra was in the process of implementing Q2, an omni-channel digital banking solution. The Credit Union specifically chose Q2 because it was built on a business banking platform, a rarity in an industry that often takes a “consumer-first” approach. This gave Interra executives the confidence that Q2 would be able to meet the needs of its sophisticated commercial clients.

The Q2 platform also includes a built-in business online banking solution, eliminating the need to integrate with yet another vendor.

2. Ensure the right product mix

From remote deposit capture to sweep accounts, from positive pay to business online banking, Interra was intent on offering commercial clients a full suite of electronic services to address every current need and anticipate future growth.

Prior to 2014, the Credit Union’s business product mix was extremely limited, including just one checking account and a few services such as a debit card, a business credit card, and online banking services built on the consumer platform.

Fast forward to today, and Interra now offers four distinct analysis checking accounts to address the unique needs of a variety of businesses, a true business debit card, and two types of credit cards (with EMV). The Credit Union also upgraded to a robust business online banking platform, supports online account opening, and offers a full treasury management suite including ACH, remote (and mobile) deposit capture, online wire transfers, positive pay, and multiple user capabilities, all available across a range of devices.

3. Staff for success

In his talk, Blosser stressed the importance of ensuring the team is ready and energized to serve the complex commercial market. Since 2014, Interra has aggressively grown the business services department, which includes a business development manager, a treasury management officer, a business services specialist, two business lending specialists, and a credit analyst. The commercial lending team doubled in size from two to four loan officers.

The Credit Union incentivizes its lenders to keep them engaged and focused on growing the portfolio. However, rewards are based on ongoing portfolio performance and loan quality, instead of sales goals, ensuring that individual and Credit Union motives are fully aligned.

4. Invest in comprehensive training

In the past, the Credit Union’s eServices department handled all new electronic banking setups for business members, as it does for consumer members. Yet without a background in business services, eServices staff didn’t have a strong understanding of business member needs.

Recognizing that business development officers are in the best position to serve business members and capitalize on opportunities to grow relationships, management trained them to set up business members on online banking, remote deposit services, and other treasury management and electronic services. The results: growth in eServices adoption and improving member satisfaction.

Interra also offers training in business products to all employees, allowing the entire team to engage in positive and meaningful conversations with business members with less anxiety.

5. Create positive brand awareness

Once the systems and infrastructure are in place, an expanded product mix is deployed, and key sales and service personnel are trained, it’s time to get the word out. Interra focuses on staying involved in the community, building on the brand awareness developed through its consumer and agricultural business lines, and using easy methods of promotion including posting “Financed by Interra” signage at commercial construction project sites.

 

Interra’s results have been impressive. Today the credit union has 78,000 members.  Business checking and savings accounts have grown by $37 million, bringing total business deposits (including money market accounts and certificates) to a total of $250 million.

Remote deposit capture is now being used at 78 business locations, processing a total of $7 million per month. 130 businesses are using ACH for processing payroll, payment collections, or making vendor payments. Credit card swipes are up by over 500 transactions per month, and over 300 business members are now using the new business online banking platform. Perhaps most impressively, Interra has opened 1,100 new business account relationships since going live with the new strategy.

Park View’s Brenneman found inspiration from Interra’s roadmap, citing Interra’s focus on deep-dive portfolio analysis, and its decision to offer commercial clients a comprehensive business online banking product.

“At our Credit Union, we are at a point where we’ve been all working hard, and we need to make a step to increase our growth trajectory,” Brenneman says. “[This session] provided me with some strategies we can work on to offer a full-service program to our business members.”

Business Deposit - Business Owner

Connecting with Business Members through Deposits

From Larry Middleman, CUBG President/CEO

When CUBG conducted a focus group with business owners near the top of the small business pyramid, the responses reinforced a long-held truism:

Not every business needs to borrow money, but every business needs a strong depository relationship.

The business account opportunity is one that is frequently overlooked by credit unions in favor of a focus on business loans, particularly CRE lending. In order for your credit union to move up the pyramid and capture a larger piece of the small business market pie, you must first shore up the product line to fit the needs of more sophisticated small businesses.

For example, according to a 2013 study by Raddon Financial Group, the majority of businesses with over $5 million in annual sales utilize services like a money market account and merchant services. Other popular services include: remote deposit capture, ACH origination, commercial insurance, and sweep accounts for cash management purposes.

To drill down further, basic consumer-type depository services that most credit unions offer to micro-businesses, such as a business checking account, a savings account, consumer online banking and bill pay platforms, and perhaps merchant Visa/Mastercard services, are not sufficient to be a player with more sophisticated businesses – those that keep six-figure deposit balances and generate significant fee income.

In order to reach this market, your credit union needs to offer a “next level” business deposits package, one that includes services such as: analyzed business checking, advanced-feature business online banking, remote deposit capture, and ACH origination capabilities. Online banking typically serves as the core, central point for businesses to manage the cash inflows and outflows of their accounts.

Do not underestimate the expertise needed to position your credit union as a knowledgeable resource in depository services. You will need to hire a dedicated expert well-versed in the needs of sophisticated small businesses, with a full understanding of the benefits and features of these specialized services. In other words, you will need to hire a Cash Management Officer.

Most credit unions intent on growing a strong and vibrant business loan portfolio will hire three to five commercial lending experts. Yet these same organizations won’t hire anyone to manage the deposit side of the equation. This is not a formula for long-term success.

By the way, did you know that maintaining your business borrower’s deposit accounts may be the best risk management tool that you have at your disposal? Instead of waiting to receive quarterly financial statements or worse yet – annual tax returns – before analyzing your member’s business conditions and ongoing performance, access to the member’s deposits will allow you to observe changes in cash flow in real time, providing you the tools to address issues quickly, before they become real headaches for you and your member.

The future could not be brighter for credit unions in the business lending marketplace. With recent, positive regulatory changes, credit unions’ outstanding reputation for trust and service, and an improving economic outlook, now is the time to take full advantage of this exciting opportunity. With some planning and a dedicated focus on serving business members’ specialized needs, credit unions can capture the full business relationship and become valued partners with larger, more sophisticated, and profitable member businesses.