Onboarding – The Right Way!

Most marketing experts agree that the first 90-120 days of any new business relationship are the most critical.  This is the time period during which mutual trust grows, impressions are made (good and bad) and the relationship is shaped for the foreseeable future.

The same goes for new credit union members.  On this blog, we’ve discussed the importance of cross-selling, building relationships, and providing outstanding service.  We haven’t yet discussed the importance of “onboarding.”  This is the process whereby credit unions attempt to establish stronger working relationships with new members by encouraging them to use more of the credit union’s services.

Many credit unions are doing a wonderful job with this.  One such credit union is Leaders CU in Jackson, TN.  I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Josh McAfee who serves as the credit union’s Marketing Director.  Josh is also a member of CUNA’s Marketing & Business Development Council.  He contributed to an ongoing Council listserv discussion about member onboarding and I was quite impressed with the program he put together for Leaders CU.  Here is the transcript of our discussion:

YFP:  Why does your credit union put such an intense focus on the onboarding process?

McAfee: The simple answer is necessity. We’re growing at such an aggressive rate at the membership level that onboarding has become a must-have to continue adequately serving our members. We’re working hard to match the horizontal growth with an equal vertical growth. If we can fully-penetrate new members within the first 90-120 days, our PPM (Products Per Member ratio) will grow along with our membership base.

YFP:  Can you discuss some of the specific metrics you use?

McAfee: We partnered with our MCIF provider to build a customized report that segments our membership into 5 levels. We look at overall membership at the branch and age levels and then break those numbers down even further by separating those groups into smaller units by looking at what we call the “3 C’s” (CD, consumer loan, credit card). We track the percentage of membership that has one of these products, 2 of them and then all 3. For some of our higher net-worth members we have also considered looking at the “3 M’s” (money market, mortgage, mutual fund.)

YFP: How do you measure results?

McAfee: We’re not as concerned with individual progress among the branches and the age groups as much as we are with the overall direction of the PPM number. However, the reason for our PFI report was to be able to accurately pinpoint the areas (by branch, by age) where we’re gaining ground and where we’re losing some opportunities. We can then go in and look at lifestyle and location indicators to make adjustments to our overall strategy.

YFP: What are some of those results?

McAfee: Our PPM ratio is 2.88. Keep in mind that our definition of PPM is categorical. If a member has 10 installment loans and 3 checking accounts, we consider that to be two products.

Regardless of whether a member has gone deeper within a product silo, they’re still making the choice for us rather than a competitor so the volume associated with that choice is immaterial for calculating our PPM.  Another major impact on our PPM metric has been mergers & acquisitions. Over the past two years, we have conducted two mergers. These M&A occurrences typically bring down our average at the outset, and then rebound as we begin to market within the newly acquired space.

YFP: Many credit unions are discussing the need for onboarding at their organizations. What advice would you give them?

McAfee: It’s not as much about what you measure, but more about how consistent you are with what you measure. I’ve seen several credit unions that only look at a particular point in history rather than choosing a baseline and watching trends after that point. It can be very easy to underestimate or overestimate your performance when you don’t have a full picture of where your PPM is headed. Also, develop a timeline for your onboarding process and assign responsibility and accountability. When manpower isn’t allocated or distributed, how can you expect to hold anyone accountable for onboarding your members?

YFP: What role does onboarding play in helping to develop more meaningful relationships with your members?

McAfee: Throughout our history, credit unions have focused their value propositions on service. Today, the very definition of service is changing to a combination of convenience and consultation. Consumers have greater demands and expectations of their financial institutions.  Many want an advisor to hold their hand through the tough times. This is where credit unions have the flexibility to meet demand. As we onboard, we can deepen the level of trust that our members have in our authority as their financial services provider. We do this by engaging our members during the first 90-120 days of membership by educating them about all of our services and by asking them to provide input regarding their membership experience. This allows us to better connect with our members. Another advantage to providing this level of service and interaction is that doing so will create advocates for us.  Hopefully our satisfied members will spread the word about Leaders CU!

YFP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

McAfee: A;; interactions between the credit union and the member should closely reflect the Golden Rule because we should be treating the members in the same way that we would like to be treated – with respect, dignity, and thoughtfulness.  When we implement mechanisms for the onboarding process that mutually benefit the member and the credit union, many of the results we are looking for (increased loan volume, more checking accounts, etc.) simply fall into place.


I want to thank Josh for offering his insight on the onboarding process.  If anyone would like to contact Josh directly, he can be reached via e-mail at jmcafee@leaderscu.com.


About Your Full Potential, LLC

I am the President of Your Full Potential, LLC and the Founder of ABSURD! Leadership. I am a professional speaker and have addressed thousands of people throughout the United States and internationally on the topics of leadership, sales, service, business development, marketing, and strategy.
This entry was posted in Building Relationships, Business Development, Credit Unions, Cross-Selling, CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council, Marketing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Onboarding – The Right Way!

  1. Ken Gardner says:

    “Throughout our history, credit unions have focused their value propositions on service. Today, the very definition of service is changing to a combination of convenience and consultation. Consumers have greater demands and expectations of their financial institutions. Many want an advisor to hold their hand through the tough times. This is where credit unions have the flexibility to meet demand.”



    • Ken,

      This is so important for credit unions to understand. The industry has changed so much over the past few years. There are more opportunities and, yes, there are more challenges. Credit unions should “step-up” to this challenges because it is unlikely the big banks will!

      Thanks for your comment!


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