One of the areas where many Credit Unions struggle is when they are faced with a merger and all the various issues that accompany taking on a large number of new members all at one time.
From issues regarding aligning products and services to basics about locations, hours and contact details, here are 9 tested merger communication tips that will ensure your Credit Union will be ready for your next merger!
There are several guidelines and timeframes set by state and federal regulators regarding mergers. Your communication plan MUST incorporate timeframes and requirements set by these regulators regarding both your communication with the memberships affected by the merger, and the communication requirements to the regulators themselves.
Both the acquired and acquiring credit union should communicate the announcement of the merger at the same time. Prior to this communication, we recommend both websites be ready for an influx of traffic as members try to learn more about the details and how they’ll be impacted. Both credit unions should work together on these pages:
Acquiring credit union: Use some homepage space to post a welcome graphic that links to a co-branded communication page. This page should include a summary welcoming the new members and explaining how the merger is best for everyone. It should also include a timeline of events and instructions for the new members.
Even if the instructions at the time of the announcement are as simple as “you don’t need to do anything at this time. You will be contacted regarding the details of your accounts prior to any action taking place.” Update this page with current information throughout the merger.
Acquired credit union: Use significant homepage space to address the merger. Have that banner link to a page that offers a summary explanation about how the merger is best for everyone involved. Then, include a call-to-action (CTA) button linking to the acquiring credit union’s hosted, co-branded page mentioned above.
Both credit unions: Use these pages to communicate when the acquired credit union will stop opening new memberships and new accounts. Also communicate if you would encourage or discourage members from joining the acquiring credit union and moving accounts on their own.
We also recommend you add a 'last update mm/dd/yyyy' to all your landing pages and update this date weekly, even if information hasn't changed. This will reassure readers that the information they are seeing is current.
That applies to frequency, NOT to overwhelming people with minute details. For some members, you may be moving their entire financial portfolio. They’ll not only want to know what’s going to happen with their accounts and how to manage their money going forward, they’ll want to know if everything is still on schedule or if there are any delays.
Merging account information into these communications as the merger date draws near will be imperative. If you’ve received a membership email list from the acquired credit union, remember you can only communicate account specific details if someone has signed an electronic disclosure agreeing to receiving this type of information via email. It may also be best to communicate to everyone through formal direct mail packets (see below).
Communicate profusely to members about what’s going to happen with their products. If nothing is going to change and it’s a 1-for-1 movement of their accounts, communicate that. If products are changing, i.e. a 21-month certificate special from the acquired Credit Union will roll into a 18-month certificate at maturity at your Credit Union, communicate that NOW rather than waiting for the 30 day notice date to generate at a future date.
And members will want to know when to expect new or re-issued debit cards, checks, if they’ll receive new online banking login information, how to change bill pay and direct deposit, etc. Create short, but informative, communications that give these details and then send them more than once to new members.
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Not only does it help, it may be the only way to communicate account specific details to members who haven’t opted into an e-sign agreement for electronic delivery of sensitive information.
Direct mail also feels more ‘official’ for a process like a bank or credit union merger. We recommend a nice welcome packet or letter sized mailer that is NOT folded if your budget allows. Utilize mail merge to show old member numbers and account numbers alongside the new numbers. And if nothing is changing, communicate that.
Print on the outside of the envelope to increase open rates. However, we DO NOT recommend printing “account information enclosed” or other phrases that would increase risk for the wrong person trying to open it.
Instead try something like “Your new ownership information is enclosed.” or “Get ready, this relationship is about to get serious!” if that fits your brand. When they see the return address label they’ll know it’s important information from you.
Calls could flood in for people who have products that are changing and people confirming nothing is changing, and they’ll want to know about services, branches, rewards programs, and more.
Your team needs to be patient and informed about all of the updates and changes, and ready to put a positive spin on all of these new accounts and features when talking to members over the phone. Make sure you run plenty of staff trainings and even some phone call role playing is a great way to work through details in a fun way.
Pro tip: From someone who has been through several mergers I can’t express enough the importance of showing your service staff some love during this process. Let them wear jeans, bring them lunch and snacks, have senior management stop by and ask how it’s going or offer support. If you’ve put a PTO freeze on during this time, give them all an extra 8 hours of time-off after.
Let them know the entire financial institution is behind them and appreciative of their extra efforts during this time.
Send very clear instructions for online and mobile banking. Include screen shots and specific directions for how and when these digital access points will change. If possible, and instructional video can also be very beneficial.
Alternatively, consider hosting a webinar to walk people through the enrollment process. Or using a webinar recording in lieu of a professionally done how-to tutorial.
Please, whatever you do, DO NOT market your products to the new members during the merger. It’s confusing enough to switch your financial institution, and there’s a lot going on.
Let new members settle in for at least the first month or two before marketing new/additional products and services to them. This includes third party mailers such as insurance offerings, rewards programs, etc.
NOTE: It’s very important you, and all staff, understand the guidelines for product placement after the merger. If your loan rates are better than the rates in the portfolio you’re acquiring, you don’t want to find yourself in a position of repricing the book of business you’ve just acquired through a high volume of refinancing.
Set up an on-boarding program to kick off approximately 6 weeks after the merger. We recommend this be a 3-month program at minimum.
Keep in mind what these new members are used to receiving for communications and how yours is going to compare to that.
If they got monthly newsletters and you send yours quarterly or not at all, they’ll feel like you’re not providing the same level of service. So, you may want to consider mirroring what they’re used to for the first three months.
During the merger the acquiring Credit Union should have received control of the acquired Credit Union’s website, Google Analytics account, social media accounts, email marketing platform, CRM, blog, and any other digital marketing software and tools.
After the completion of the merger we recommend that you set the previous CU Homepage up as a splash page for about three months (unless it’s happening around year-end and tax time, then leave it up a little longer).
Visitors to the acquired Credit Union’s website will see the merger splash message and be able to follow the CTA to visit the acquiring Credit Union’s site. After three months (or year-end or tax time) assess the volume of traffic to the site using Google Analytics. If it’s low enough, go ahead and set up a permanent redirect from the old site to yours.
Leave the old URL and redirect in place for about a year; or you may decide you want to own the old URL indefinitely.
Have a plan in place for the acquired site’s blog and blog subscriptions, newsletter subscriptions, and the merger or discontinuation of social media accounts to the acquiring Credit Union.
A clear and effective communication strategy during a merger makes all the difference between success and chaos. If you’re not feeling prepared with the right tools, experience, or number of staff needed to successfully implement a strong communication plan, reach out and learn how the team at FI GROW Solutions can help.
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