The mouthpiece of Arizona FCU, Steve Kelley, senior director of marketing, was recently quoted in the Credit Union Journal.
“PHOENIX-Three months after instituting a $3 per month “membership dues” for members, the $1.2-billion Arizona Federal Credit Union said member pushback has been minimal as it has emphasized the value of “participation” in the credit union.”
Thousands of angry members should not be described as “minimal pushback” to the heavy-handed, unnecessary fees, that disproportionately target the poorer member-owners to give up their membership. Why was only the mouthpiece for the credit union interviewed and none of the thousands of angry member-owners who are unhappy that they are not being represented properly by the credit union executives and Board of Directors, who should be looking out for the interests of the member-owners? Writing an article without mentioning any of the angry comments all over the Internet reports only the first half of the story, with all of the credit union spin, and none of the member-owner outrage.
“Steve Kelley, senior director of marketing, told Credit Union Journal Arizona Federal avoided outside publicity for its new policy, but said it made certain members knew what was coming and why.”
Yes, you should be ashamed and not want the media to know how you are sticking it to the member-owners! It was only after the media properly reported the outrage in 2011, with banks like Bank of America, Chase, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo attempting to add new debit card fees, that those fees were withdrawn.
“We have 160,000 members, and certainly no one woke up in December and hoped their credit union would start charging them dues,” he said. “We went into it with our eyes open. It is an intentional, strategic move on our part that had nothing to do with revenue and had everything to do with membership and participation. It is a single piece of a much larger strategy. Certainly some members have expressed concern, and others have chosen to terminate membership. We take it upon ourselves to make membership worth far more than $3 per month, and we feel we are doing so.”
You don’t decide what membership is worth. The members decide. The members spoke loud and clear that they don’t see the unavoidable punitive $3 monthly fee as mutually beneficial or worthwhile. Why is Arizona FCU not listening to the member-owners? You arrogantly take $3 from the pocket of every member, and claim that’s a good thing?
“The roots of the pricing decision go back to 2011, when Arizona Federal added a comprehensive identity protection and identity theft recovery program. Kelley said the benefit was provided for free to all members, describing it as a “very good package” that “compares favorably” to programs that charge $15 per month or more. The service included active credit monitoring and updated credit scores.”
Arizona Federal gave the ID Theft Protection Service away for free in 2007. Then in 2012, it became an optional service for $1.95 to checking account holders. Once they began charging unavoidable $3 monthly membership fees, they claim this same service is suddenly worth “$15 or more per month.” Yet Marisol and TruWest, to name 2 Phoenix area credit unions, offer an OPTIONAL ID Theft Protection Service for $1.95 and $2, respectively. Mr. Kelley, you are destroying your credibility and the members aren’t buying your propaganda!
Mr. Kelley continued:
“We did not do this blind,” he added. “We do not want to lose members, we want them to be active members. This is not a ‘fee them up’ strategy, we do not want anyone to pay dues for something that they do not see as value.”
If that were true, then you would make these so-called mutually beneficial services optional. Arizona clearly wants to shove the poorest members out the door, and this clearly is a fee them up strategy. You clearly want everyone to pay the unavoidable $3 weasel fees whether they see it as a good value or not! The solution is simple. Eliminate the fee, or make it optional! Don’t force all members to pay for services that only some members use and want!
“According to Kelley, Arizona Federal believes the concept of member-ownership is “critical” to being a financial cooperative, as demonstrated by the fact it shares the proceeds at the end of the year with all participating members.”
Give out $3 million in “loyalty rewards,” assess almost $6 million in annual fees, then call this mutually beneficial? Why insult the intelligence of the members?
“”We want the members to consider this an institution that they are an owner of and treat us that way. We want them to come to us when they need lending of any kind, credit cards, insurance, investments and financial planning, and our auto purchasing service. ”
No, you just severely damaged goodwill. The thousands of members you are running off are not going to consider Arizona Federal for lending of any kind.
“It is too soon to tell the overall impact on the existing membership, because it is a large ship and takes a while to turn, but our goal was to get people’s attention and get some changes made and we see changes taking place. Now it is on us to deliver on our promise.”
It’s been 10 years, but we haven’t forgotten the past promises, such as Ronald Westad made in 2003. Ripping off your long-time loyal customers with a $3 monthly weasel fee is a great way to get negative attention. Running off the younger and poorer members now, will create a negative karma payback in the future, as those members grow older and richer in their peak earning years. They won’t forget you kicked them to the curb.
Let’s review what Arizona Federal CU President/CEO Mr. Ronald Westad said in 2003:
“It was quickly evident to me credit unions aligned with my personal values and beliefs,” Westad recalls. “It was very easy to do things for the right reasons. “It wasn’t a matter of how much could we make or how much could we charge members. It was a question of how little could we afford to charge and remain safe and sound,” he said.
Westad says AFCU has focused on providing low-cost access to financial services. That means taking into the field of membership consumers, many young, who really need credit.
“It centered on a high level of service. It concentrated on a value proposition that we will make a financial difference in individuals lives,” he says. Westad also believes his involvement with groups such as the Urban League – he’s the immediate past chairman of the Greater Phoenix Urban League.- are important as AFCU reaches out to the underserved.
From 2000 to 2012, average fee income per member went from $48 per member to $148 per member. With a net worth ratio of 9.72% as of December 2012, which is well-capitalized already, now you want to stick members with another $36 in fees? In 2003, you talked about how little you could afford to charge. It seems that in reality, you are looking for how high you can charge. What happened Ron? Did you forget your personal values and beliefs?