Friday, October 20, 2006


Looking into the faces of today’s youth after they’ve had a long day at school is a reminder of how important it is to do something special when you want to get their attention. I thought to myself, what could we do to reach these kids and make the important things we have to say stick?

As the Relationship Manager for the Beacon Hill Branch, I’m charged with the delightful duty of creating a Verity presence in the community. So when Jean, a Youth Director from the Jefferson Community Center in Beacon Hill contacted me about hosting a class regarding financial responsibility to at-risk kids, I was eager and excited at the prospect.

First, I contacted our traveling Financial Guru, Alicia, a former DFI fraud-buster and skilled speaker on identity theft and investments. I thought she would be the perfect presenter to these eager young people about ideas on protecting their identities and on how they could invest in their own futures.

Our presentation followed a gentleman who had talked about investments, and, as I got up to introduce Alicia and myself, I recognized that familiar rolling back, lid-heavy, slight glaze, that doe in the headlight look over wide teenage eyes that said: “peace out”.

I gave a brief presentation about the differences between Credit Unions and banks, debit cards and credit cards, answered several questions, and told them I’d be happy to open an account for them when they were ready.

We took a moment for everyone to stretch and take 5 before Alicia started her presentation, and I took the opportunity to run downstairs and pick up the awaiting “attention getter”.

I was the Pied Piper of Pizza, and as I noticed the trail of teens behind me, I said, “Okay, who’s going to open an account with me today?”

Absolute teen SILENCE. You could hear a pin drop. “Okay, just kidding!” There was a group sigh of relief as they descended upon the pizza and pop. They were now refreshed and all ears.

Alicia took the stage for the next hour or so engaging the rapt attention of the alert teens. She shared pictures of her own youth and monetary mistakes to giggles and smiles. Then she got them leaning forward in their chairs when she spoke about chasing the bad guys: identity thieves. The group was also very impressed with the graph in which she demonstrated how a very small investment today could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future.

These are smart kids and they had some great questions for Alicia. So, to reward them for their attention and to get them started on their financial futures, Alicia handed each of them a $5.00 bill to use an investment in themselves and their future, or perhaps an investment in Taco Bell later that eveing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Member Thoughts Requested

The other day I had a very nice chat with a representative from KPLU. They are one of the stations that broadcasts NPR in the Seattle area.

His initial phone call came to me with interesting timing. I have been grappling with this idea of reaching folks with a proclivity for affiliation (or, in more understandable terms – those people who like the idea of belonging to something bigger than themselves).

So I had been grappling with this idea since mid-September and I was at a dinner party. One of the guests mentioned that he loves This American Life.

Now, I have to state, I love NPR. I love the Click and Clack Brothers, I love All Things Considered and I love This American Life. An interesting thing happened when he made that statement. When he said that he loves This American Life, I immediately put him in my mental category of “he is the same as me”. This fellow was of a different age, ethnicity and gender as me, but with those words I classified him as ‘same’ to me. But more interesting, I saw others in the group responding similarly.

You know that feeling that you get when you find a commonality with someone you don’t know well? When you stumble upon something that you both have in common, you are suddenly more at ease. I saw this happen in the room. With those simple words, the group started to gel, the conversation picked up and the night took a turn towards the engaging.

So, being a fan of NPR and seeing how it can bring together like minded people, I was excited for our meeting.

One of the things that the rep showed me was an opportunity to sponsor a high school band project. KPLU is working with local jazz greats to record various high school bands playing various jazz hits.

High school band…. I remember how the band was when I was in high school. Now there is a group that bonded. I remember I wanted to be in band, but my 6th grade music teacher told me my upper lip was too skinny to play the flute and that I should really lean towards the tuba. I decided the tuba wasn’t for me. My mom told me at the time that she probably already had too many girls trying out for the flute and was just trying to fill an open tuba spot and that my lips are just fine. That is what I chose to believe in those awkward years. But my upper lip IS really thin. That’s OK. I joined FBLA instead and all worked out. Ooops, sorry for the totally irrelevant transgression.

Back to sponsoring high school bands through KPLU. This seems like such a great idea to me. As Chief Marketing Officer for Verity Credit Union, my objectives are this:

1.become involved in the communities surrounding our branches
2.communicate with teens that credit unions (ours in particular) are the best financial alternative for them
3.encourage more people to use our credit union to sustain our financial health and well-being.

It also feels right. I mean, I can’t get over the fact that Seattle is one of the most educated cities in the country and one of the most affluent, yet we are closing grade schools left and right. I don’t know a lot about high school programs yet, but it seems to me, if the schools are struggling financially, the extracurricular activities really have to be hurting. This seems like a sponsorship that could do a lot of good locally and reach an audience that would be interested in joining our credit union.


Saturday, October 14, 2006


Have you ever had the experience when you spend time trying to convey an idea and then somebody looks at you, pauses, and repeats back to you what you were trying to say but with clarity and grace?

That happened to me the other day. I gave a presentation to our board of directors. I was trying to explain to them why we are investing more energy into our business blog and how we plan to expand on social media in the future. I was basically saying that blogs foster a sense of community among like-minded people. The board was receptive to what I had to say but I was stumbling a bit in the telling of it.

After I was finished, one of the board members came up and gave me the url of a site that her company uses to “foster a communication medium for those people with a proclivity for community mindedness”.

Gosh, I wish I had used the word proclivity in my presentation. I love that word. I don’t use it enough.

It seems to me that folks who enjoy writing blogs and reading blogs, have a proclivity towards learning and teaching and being affiliated with others who are thinkers. To me, that sums up the type of person who would embrace the idea of a credit union. Credit unions are meant to be financial co-ops designed for members to benefit from one another. The two seem like a good fit.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Marketing Just Popped A Tooth

As a mother of two toddlers, I know a growth spurt when I see one.

Growth spurts look like this: The kids eat and sleep a lot, they get cranky and suddenly, I put them to bed looking one way and they wake up looking another – whether they have grown an inch, sprouted a tuft of hair, lost their baby fat or popped a tooth – they suddenly look much different.

Recently, I’ve been noticing that my traditional marketing (TV, radio and print ads), eats a lot (of my money, that is), sleeps a lot (in terms of results) and generally makes quite me cranky.

Then, on September 28, the Seattle Times had a large picture in the business section of the “bedroom of the future”. The interactive wall paper could allow someone to project their computer screen onto their walls. They mentioned how this might be popular with teens. In this article, I witnessed the phenomenon of a growth spurt. I went to bed with media looking one way and woke up with it looking another.

I thought about my life as a teen. From third grade on, I was addicted to the telephone. I remember spending hours talking to my friends on the phone. I remember the day we got call waiting, the day we got a cordless phone, the day I got my own phone in my room. These evolutions in communications each meant huge transitions in my social life. Call waiting meant I could prioritize who I talked to (and conversely, who talked to me). Cordless meant I didn’t have to sit on the tile in the kitchen anymore. A phone in my room…. well, that meant all sorts of late night and early morning calls.

The teens I have in my life now text each other constantly. I watch the dexterity of their thumbs; mesmerized by how quick they are – and how connected they are to their social groups.

I think of what it would have been like it I could wake up in the morning, enveloped by my MySpace friends in the sanctuary of my room. What would it have been like, when I was a teen, to open my eyes and see the things my friends from around the world had posted while I was away from them for that nine hours that I had just spent in sleep?

If I had that when I was a teen, I would have never watched TV or listened to the radio. Never. Kids today are weaned on iPods and TiVo and YouTube (and soon Holodecks). It makes complete sense that they are not hearing the ads we put on the radio and not paying attention to the ads we place on TV. I don’t blame them.

I don’t blame them, but I still want to talk with them. Our credit union, like all of the other credit unions in our area, have a great financial alternative for them. Not only are our rates and fees more reasonable than any bank around, we also care about their financial well-being. We have all sorts of educational opportunities, like credit university and our free classes, to help them make better financial decisions. Belonging to a credit union also means belonging to something bigger than yourself. From everything I have read and seen about this generation, they like the idea of an affinity to like-minded people. We can offer that, banks can’t.

But how do I talk with them now that the media landscape is changing so drastically. I don’t know. But just like when my kids had growth spurts and took leaps in development (like learning to walk and learning how to ask ‘why?’), I figured it out. I’ll keep working on this one.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Warning: Working at Verity could be hazardous to your waistline!

When I walked in to work this morning I was greeted by the smell of fresh baked cookies. Our mortgage director Wendy took it upon herself (she may have had help from her staff) to make enough cookies, brownies and other goodies to feed most of Northgate. Why did she do this? Just to say thank you.

I've helped myself to a small sampling of the smorgasbord: one lemon square, a brownie with what appears to be cream cheese filling, and a chocolate-chocolate chip cookie. I may go back for the peanut butter brownie or a regular chocolate chip cookie. We'll see how I'm feeling after lunch.

Dang, I should've worn elastic-waisted pants today!