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 one of a Q&A with Josh Allison, CUDE, relationship development manager, for Horizon Credit Union.

(1)       Can you please explain Horizon Credit Union’s “Here2Help” SEG program?

Horizon’s “Here2Help” program was designed in the fall of 2013 by the Relationship Management department – the department responsible for youth education and business development efforts for Horizon. For many years, our business development program was called Horizon’s “Preferred Employee Partner” program, and the focus was on product promotions with SEGs (now we call them our Community Business Partners [CBPs]). Over time, however, we realized that it was a very difficult task to engage and build relationships that were relevant to these businesses. The reason: What we were offering of “value” was actually free and commoditized. The free checking and bill pay we were offering their employees was also free at Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other local and regional banks. It became clear to us that if our goal was to actually partner with and be relevant to these CBPs. We had to shift from being a department that simply promoted financial products, to that of a department that also proclaimed the purpose behind them.  In 2009 and 2010, we spent a great deal of time researching the correlations of workplace performance and financial stress. We realized that not only does financial education pair well with the philosophy and core values held by credit unions, but it also meets a huge employee and employer need: financial stress in the workplace that is literally costing U.S. employers billions of dollars in lost productivity via employee absenteeism, presenteism (being at work, but focused on personal financial matters), higher healthcare costs, poor savings choices and falling victim to predatory lenders.

Armed with this information and research, we then re-engaged Community Business Partners with a message significantly more relevant to them. Our conversation content became about employee financial stress, the cost to the bottom line of the business, and how the credit union was perfectly positioned to help. After all, we exist to serve our communities, and after all, we are “Here2Help.”

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 here to help their employees, because of our purpose-driven business model and our vast amount of financial resources and expertise.

Our CBP engagement framework is as follows:

  1. Target: we target the top 5-10 largest employers in a community, employers in close proximity to our local branches and other local “centers of influence” (valued nonprofits or community organizations, Chambers, or Economic Development groups)
  2. Engage: using workplace productivity and financial stress correlation research, we positioned the credit union as an advocate for employee financial education. We would then promote the credit union’s products and services to our CBP employers, stating that “If your employees join us, you now know we will be an advocate for them.”
  3. c.                   Maintain: To maintain and build long-term CBP relationships, we would send quarterly emails promoting our latest employee workshop offerings, a few relevant financial stress statistics, and then follow each quarterly email with a phone call and visit. We made these emails specific to each CBP contact (vs. mass emailing) and focused on education content and asking how we can help.

(2)       Is Here2Help a sub brand of your credit union or is it all branded together? Why or why not?

We originally cobranded Horizon with the Here2Help brand. We are reevaluating this, and will look to eliminate the Here2Help logo, but will keep the program name and content under the Horizon brand. This is to better align our efforts and draw awareness back to Horizon’s brand.

(3)       What are the four values of Here2Help and how do you communicate those to your SEG partners?

The four values explain why we really are there to help our Community Business Partners, as opposed to our for-profit competition who engage in business development for a much different reason. Yes, we (FI industry) all offer checking accounts, bill pay and loans. But when a CBP refers an employee to Horizon they now know it’s what’s behind the commoditized product that is meaningful and beneficial to their employee. We would explain that we are local, not for profit, member-centered and nearby.

  1. Local – local faces in local places
  2. Not-profit –  we put people above profit
  3. Member-centered – we make decisions in the best interest of our member-owners, not at their expense
  4. Nearby – we would include a business card with a local branch manager and branch address on it on all Here2Help marketing collateral (furthering awareness for local branch managers and where they were located)

Sharing our values allowed us to build trust by alleviating the concerns from employers that are concerned that “you’re just there to solicit and sell the credit union.” With the vendor stigma attached to so many B2B and B2C business development efforts, sharing our values and aligning them with a large employee need (financial stress), allowed us to differentiate through our community conversations.