I’m not gettin’ any action

… from any of the credit union blog-o-sphere lately.  Matt is one of my great friends in the industry, but his recent post on “Steve” is another example of what seems to be wrong with the majority of credit union and bank blogs.  All of this theoretical talk about how we should serve our members, what our core purpose is, why don’t we have a national marketing campaign, etc, etc.  I care about the Steve’s of the world, and more importantly the national trend for lack of personal responsibility, but more important to me is what can credit unions do to succeed.  I don’t want them to think about hypothetical situations or what-ifs.

For the industry to be successful in the long run and not get regulated out of existence, we need to succeed in our niche and do it very well.  I’m part of the credit union blog-o-sphere and I care for everyone in it, but we need to do a much better job at creating actionable items for credit unions to “take home” with them.  We need to cross NBC’s The More You Know campaign with blog posts and white papers.  I want the readership of my blog to read a post of say, “Wow, that is something we can accomplish at our credit union and I’m going to do it.”  McApline’s 30 things in 30 days series is one of the closest things I’ve seen to this.  It provides credit unions with examples and a road map of what to do and how to do it.  Granted, not every CU is going to implement a private, white-label CRM, or use internet video, but the series does provide some of the nitty gritty details that are need to get my job done.

Nitty gritty is not fun.  It is not sexy.  It is not the latest social media trend or technology.  It is, however, the foundation of a credit union, without which a CU never exist.

Don’t get filtered out

I mentioned a few posts back about a company called OpenDNS that provides a recursive DNS service. That’s a fancy way of saying that they are the phone book for the internet and translate IP addresses into people-friendly domains like cuna.org. Every computer that you get on points to a DNS server, whether is is provided by your ISP, your employer, OpenDNS, or now Google.

Similar to other freemium models, OpenDNS provides a free service but also a paid subscription model, both to individuals and businesses. In all levels of their account, OpenDNS has a very robust content filtering mechanism in place. Basically, a domain is tagged by the OpenDNS community and placed into a category. These categories can then be filtered out.  For instance, if your credit union or employer used the OpenDNS product, they could simply check a box in the configuration and not allow any traffic to any site that has been classified as chat, adult, adware, malware, nudity, etc. This would prevent a great number of visits to websites that could be harmful to the network of the credit union. Many credit unions already have a filtering system in place to prevent access to certain types of sites and OpenDNS is just another mechanism to accomplish that.

In my credit union community service act of the week, I took all of the website addresses for credit unions out of the call report data, uploaded them to OpenDNS, and tagged all of them as “Financial Institution”. Don’t worry, it wasn’t that hard. There were only about 7000. Only about 3% of credit union websites were listed, which could potentially lead to some of those websites being blocked for users of OpenDNS. With nearly 20 billion DNS requests handle per day, OpenDNS is becoming a large provider of these services and thus CU’s need to ensure that their members can reach their website.

I have uploaded and tagged all of the credit union url’s, but now they have to be voted on by the community to ensure the tags are accurate. To check your website and vote on the category it is placed in, go to the OpenDNS Domain Tagging page. In the upper, right-hand corner, enter in your website address and vote “Yes” to ensure it is placed in the Financial Institution category. If you run other public facing subdomains, such as blog.mycu.org or onlinebanking.mycu.org, you can add those domains as well.

Phish TankOpenDNS also runs another project called PhishTank, which is something that will most likely hit all of us by some point. PhishTank works exactly like OpenDNS, in that the community can submit phishing attempts to the website and it then gets voted on. This data can then be used by law enforcement or the company that is being phished to educate their members. OpenDNS also uses this data to possibly filter these phishing sites and prevent users from going to a confirmed site.

So if you’ve got 30 seconds, go to OpenDNS, look up your CU’s website, or your own, and vote to make sure that it is in the correct category. You wouldn’t want your site to be inaccessible to your members!

In the spirit of giving, should I do this using all of the FDIC for the banks, assuming that their website addresses are in the data?

UPDATE: I also uploaded all of the FDIC bank url data as well.  So if you are a banker out there, go vote for your website as well.

Your chance to join the NACUSO Technology Advisory Board

Most everyone in the credit union industry has heard of NACUSO.  The National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations is the trade association for CUSO’s across the nation and has been doing great work in encouraging collaboration between credit unions.  NACUSO has a number of advisory boards and I happen to sit on their Technology board.  As is the norm with advisory boards, our membership is fairly fluid and we are always looking for new talent and news ways of using technology to further credit unions.

We currently have an opening on the Technology Advisory board and will be looking to fill that position by the end of January.  In the same vein as Young and Free and Forum Solutions‘ search for a speaker for their symposium, we will be hosting an online video contest for our vacant spot.

If you think you have what it takes to encourage credit unions to collaborate,  adopt new technologies, and want to be on the bleeding edge of financial services technologies, bust out that video camera.  The submission deadline is January 15th and we’ll announce the new member on January 29th, 2010.

To submit your video, upload it to a video sharing site such as Vimeo, Viddler, or YouTube (anyone with robust sharing capabilities) and shoot an email with the information .  I’ll post your submission to the NACUSO website.  We’ll throw a poll up on the website beginning in January to let everyone start voting and give us some insight before we make a final decision.  Feel free to leave a comment with any questions or shoot me an email.

Oh, by the way, you might want to know what you are getting yourself into.  At this point, we have a monthly conference call that lasts less than an hour and tend to trade emails back and forth throughout the month.  This may change slightly in the future as new projects come along, but that’s about it.  Ideally, one should be able to attend the NACUSO Annual Convention each year, but it is not mandatory.

We’re looking forward to everyone’s submissions!

Don’t be so serious

In my recent quest to clean up the website and try to squeak out some performance gains, I have been looking at different CDN (Content Delivery Network) providers to host all of my static files, like images.  Rackspace has a service they call Cloud Files that enables you to save files to the proverbial “cloud” for $.15 per GB, exactly like Amazon’s S3 offering.  Rackspace, however, has a CDN built in to their online file storage.  Long story short, I went to their site to sign up and try it out.

What in the world does this have to do with credit unions?  Well, I never finished the sign-up process and the next day I received this email:

How cool is that!  Not only can they tell that I didn’t finish the setup process, but they are providing me an incentive to come back and finish.  Credit unions are just beginning to get into opening accounts online, but they can take a page out of the Rackspace playbook.  First off, they have the technology to make this happen, so make sure your online account vendor can do this.  Secondly, they don’t take any kind of holier-than-thou attitude about why the potential member didn’t finish.  Finally, they provide an incentive to come back.  “Outbound calling”, aka hounding indirect auto loan customers, would do well with some like this.

Here’s my version:

Hey Joe,

We noticed that you didn’t complete your online (insert product name here) application yesterday.  If you have any questions about the process or just need someone to talk to, feel free to give me a call directly at 888-888-8888 or call into our Member Service Center at 888-8888-7777.  Oh, and by the way, we really value the business of all of our members, so if you’d like to finish the application online or come into a branch, enter in your discount code of ALMOSTGOTAWAY and we’ll give you another .5% on your (insert product name here).

Robbie Wright

ABC Credit Union

Starting small with collaboration

In a perfect world CUNA, NAFCU, NACUSO, CUES, WOCCU, and the rest of the credit union alphabet soup would be lovey dovey, get along great, find ways to work together, etc, etc.  Maybe we’d even get a national campaign out of it.  Milk can do it.  Pork can do it.  Even pistachios have joined the club recently.  Regardlesss, I digress.

Most talk I hear about and around CU collaboration these days seems to be these organizations getting together with committees or advisory boards.  And that’s about where it ends.  Death by committee.  The same reason a national campaign will most likely never take off.  Too many minds and opinions.  So rather than be destined to languishing in committees, why can’t credit unions start small with some type of functional collaboration?

If you had to pick a small, functional area for half-a-dozen credit unions to partner with, what would it be?  Something simple like website hosting, but full featured?  Phone system stuff?  ACH origination?  What is something small that credit unions could experiment with together?

Everyone hates spring cleaning

Actually, I guess it is winter cleaning, but who’s keep track.

The one bad thing about blogrolls: they’re like eggrolls.  They go bad fast.  I axed all of the blogs that haven’t updated it least three months.  Goodbye Otta Radke, Kirk LeTourneau, Travis Carnahan, Doug True (the old personal blog), Dan Mica, Jeff Hardin, and a few others.  Open Source CU almost got the cut by that metric, but I kept them around.  Slackers.  Tomorrow, I’ll refresh my list with some of the new sites that have popped up like the CU Water Cooler and Carla Day’s blog.

I buckled down tonight, and last night, and made some performance enhancements to the blog.  Assuming everything is running well, the entire page will load in about 2 seconds, down from over 4 seconds.  Not too shabby if I don’t say so myself.

Some of the new tweaks may cause some issues for some people, so if you have any problems at all, please let me know!

Members in Nevada and California hit hard by economy


As I was neck deep in NCUA reports this week, I noticed a few interesting things about the state of delinquency in CU’s.

Not too surprising, but the state with the credit unions that have been the hardest hit by this recession has been Nevada.  Nevada credit unions, on average, have a reportable DQ (accounts over 60 days late) of greater than 5%.  For those not great at math, that means if you have a $100M CU, you have $5M in accounts that are currently 2 months or more late.  Utah is on Nevada’s heels.  And surprisingly, at least to me, Delaware is in the top ten states by DQ%.

topten-dqbalCutting the same numbers a different way, California is having a hell of a time with delinquency as well.  Nearly $2B in overdue accounts.  The 20 states in these two top tens are having real estate problems.  Rather their credit union members are.  So what are credit unions to do facing these types of numbers?  California and Nevada both share the same league, the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues.  Is there an opportunity for the league to help out?

Oh, and don’t get down on CU’s.  Banks have an average DQ rate of 7.03% for the 3rd quarter.

All information was computed using the 3rd quarter 2009 call report.  The raw data can be found here.

When the hand that feeds you starts feeding themselves

Warning: Slight technical discussion ahead follow by shallow stabs at credit union marketing.

Google announced today their new Google Public DNS service.  For those not in the know, recursive DNS, which is what Google is offering, is simplistically a phone book.  It translates “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson” to 800-555-5555.  Applied to the internet, it translates cuemployee.com to, which is the IP address of the server running my blog.  As is the Google norm, it is free.Every computer you use to get on the internet has to use a DNS server and normally these are managed by your ISP, but there are other options.

home-footer-logoEnter OpenDNS.  They’ve been around for a while now and provide both a free DNS service as well as paid options.  With their free option, you as a consumer get very fast resolution when you type a domain name in and it is smart enough to send you to the correct page when you type in google.co.  When a domain name is mis-typed or does not resolve, you are directed to one of their search pages which contains ads, by Google of course.  Here’s an example.  So OpenDNS pays for their servers, staff, etc by the AdSense revenue they gain from their sponsored search pages.

So what do you do when the company that pays your bills goes into the exactly same business you are in?  Does OpenDNS now race against Google for the fast DNS resolution?  Nobody can compete on price since it is already free.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.  How are credit unions supposed to differentiate their free checking accounts from one another?  I’m sorry, is it a checking account, share draft account, or a spending account?  Is your checking account free-er than your neighboring credit union?  Wait, you focus on member service, so that’s your differentiation, right?

Outsourced CU

Back in September, Filene issued a call out to the industry for assistance in creating what boils down to an Applied Research division.  So far, we’ve already seen the CU Water Cooler come out of Matt Davis and I know we’ll be seeing some good stuff from Brent Dixon shortly.

I’m going to take  a gamble and put my more detailed response out for comment.  I feel very strongly that by collaborating and removing operational barriers to success, credit unions can bust out of the funk we’re in and take it to the next level.  I’ve put together a rough draft white paper on what I call the Outsourced CU.  I want to use the many Filene collaboration initiatives to make this happen.

If you’ve got a few minutes, give it a read.  If you love it, email George Hofheimer at Filene and let him know what you think.  If you think I’m crazy, well, just go easy.

Alltop and Credit Unions

I must have been asleep at the wheel, but through the magic of Google’s Webmaster tools (which I hardly look at) I noticed I had been linked to from Alltop’s credit union page!  First I said, “Sweet, Alltop has a credit union page!”  Then I said, “How’d I pull that off?”

For those of you not in the know, Alltop is arguably the biggest news/blog aggregator out there.  They place a handful of sites into categories and let people subscribe to all of the feeds in a given category.  They’ve got everything from the standard fair Politics section to the slightly more obscure Lego section.  If someone is trying to keep up with an industry in general, this is the place to go.

Honestly, I’m slightly disappointed with the selection of the credit union page.  It doesn’t include many of the blogs that I would consider mandatory reading.  I know Alltop’s secret sauce for coming up with the included feeds is really just by the seat of their pants, but I’m still curious as who suggested the category and how they came up with the site list.  I’m more impressed with their banking site as it included Jim, Colin, James, and Jeffry, all of which I would say is required reading.

Anyone one heard how or when the Alltop credit union or banking site got started?  What blogs do you guys feel are missing from the list?

PS – I really want to put one of their cheesy badges on my blog.  They make me laugh.

Like this one: Alltop or this one: Alltop