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Whether November 5th Brings a Tsunami or a Splash, New Credit Union Members Prepare to Dive In

Someone is throwing you a party and 62,313 people are planning to attend. Does this make you happy? Nervous? Skeptical?

How do you respond?

These questions aren’t entirely hypothetical for the nation’s credit unions as November 5th – now designated as Bank Transfer Day – gains momentum. The brainchild of art gallery owner and credit union member Kristen Christian, Bank Transfer Day invites the nation’s big bank customers to switch their accounts to credit unions. Why? General disgust with the banking industry reached a new zenith when Bank of America announced its intention to charge a $5 monthly fee for debit card use in late September. As of this writing, more than 62,000 people had RSVP’d, with the number rising minute by minute. Some big credit unions have already reported a surge in new membership in anticipation of the big day.

To folks who have worked in the credit union industry for more than ten minutes, an active response from more than 60,000 people is nothing short of stupendous. But, realistically, what should credit unions expect on November 5? And how should we prepare?

Join the party. Got the time and resources to pull together a last-minute newspaper campaign (think remnant space) or a social media promotion? No time like the present to tell Occupy Wall Street protesters – and everyone else – who and where you are. Use Facebook and Twitter to make your case: That’s where this movement is happening. But also consider sending a quick press release to the local media highlighting your efforts to help consumers make a smooth transition. Media coverage has been rampant, and reporters are always eager for sources they can quote and feature. Don’t forget to mention how easy it is to qualify for membership.

Stress access and convenience. One of the most common misconceptions reported this Fall is that credit unions are not as convenient as banks when it comes to accessing ATMs and branch locations. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. CO-OP Financial Services has been busy getting the word out to the media to educate editors of the business press and their readers. Please do the same with your prospective new members! They can easily find a CO-OP Network ATM or shared branch location near them – wherever they are, at home or on the road.

Open your doors. Literally. November 5th is a Saturday. Adjust your hours accordingly.

Say, “You’re Welcome.”  If everyone who RSVP’d for Bank Transfer Day on Facebook joined a credit union on November 5th, each of the nation’s 7,000-plus credit unions could expect eight or nine new members. So don’t double your staff yet. However, this is a great opportunity to polish up your welcome process. How easy is it for someone new to walk into a branch, become a member and open an account? What about online or by phone? Don’t miss the chance to bond with new members as well. Simply wishing people a happy Bank Transfer Day when you greet them can go a long way toward creating a common bond.

Sell, sell, sell. New members may be making a switch out of anger, but that’s not the best reason to join a credit union. What you know – and many Bank Transfer Day participants may not yet – is that credit unions actually represent a better choice in financial services. Indeed, credit unions are “A Smarter Choice.” That means better motives, but also a full slate of super products and services. Don’t just sign up new members: Sell, and do what credit unions do best – help prospective new members through the switching process.

Keep the conversation going. November 5th will come and go, but the sentiment that has sparked Bank Transfer Day will not. The Move Your Money Project, fueled by outrage over the bank bailout, is now approaching its third year of operation. Occupy Wall Street and its local counterparts are now a global movement. Big banks seem determined to compensate for Durbin Amendment losses with customer fees. Whatever the actual numbers from Bank Transfer Day turn out to be, the essential message remains constant: People are ready for alternatives.