What’s Your Definition of Primary Financial Institution?

Bright tiles spell out the word define
Lisa Hochgraf Photo
Senior Editor

3 minutes

CUES members discuss more than metrics.

Putting your focus on becoming your members’ primary financial institution begs the question, “How do you define a PFI?”

CUES member Dan Clarke, SVP/member experience with $5 billion Service Credit Union, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, posed this question to the CUESNet member community in December. (CUESNet is a benefit of CUES membership.)

“To get the ball rolling, I’ll go first,” Clarke wrote. “We currently define PFI as a member with a savings and checking account along with direct deposit and a loan. When we do surveys, we have found that members consider us their PFI but have no loans with us—either by choice (no debt) or because even though they don’t use us for loans we’re still their go-to financial institution (which is a little bit of a bummer for me—after all, we have loans!)

“This is one of those metrics that seem to widely vary between financial institutions (products per member, anyone)?” he added, inviting other CUES members into the discussion.

Several other CUES members jumped in, among them Scott Heit, digital marketing specialist with $621 million Leaders Credit Union, Jackson, Tennessee. He explained his CU’s tiered levels of PFI, which are based on products per member.

Leaders CU’s “pro” PFI level includes members with four or more products, including a checking account, an ACH, at least 10 debits, online statements and an Internet banking relationship. These members are more than 16 years old and are not indirect members.

The CU’s “intermediate” PFI level is the same, but members have at least three products instead of four and an Internet banking relationship but no ACH relationship. At the CU’s “beginner” PFI level, members have at least three products but no ACH, online statement nor online banking relationship.

CUES member Brian Wilcox said he takes a very basic view of PFI, defining it as when a member has a checking account with direct deposit into it.

“This indicates the checking account is active,” wrote Wilcox, chief marketing officer for $1.9 billion APG Federal Credit Union, Aberdeen, Maryland. “When you start tying additional products and services, the waters can get muddied. Some members are borrowers, and some are savers. Loans get paid off and deposit balances fluctuate.”

Wilcox said his credit union also considers whether members indicate the credit union as their PFI on the annual member survey.

“However, that goes to only a sampling of members and is only done every other year,” he noted. “Still, it is another good metric to monitor, which can be benchmarked against peers.

CUES member Kelcey Stevens, ACC, agreed that metrics like wallet share and products per member have long been the go-to metrics for defining PFI. Organizational learning and leadership adviser for $1.7 billion Sharonview Federal Credit Union, Fort Mill, South Carolina, Stevens added a few questions to consider that may give additional insight into a CU’s definition of PFI.

  • How are you defining PFI across generations, as it may be different for each?
  • How are your members defining PFI?
  • What consideration have you given to leveraging data such as digital penetration, usage and service concentration to help define PFI?
  • How are you identifying members’ behavior, financial life stage and next best possible action? 

How do you define PFI? Please add your thoughts in the comments.

Lisa Hochgraf is senior editor for CUES.

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