Monday, August 17, 2015

How Safe are Your Passwords?

Nowadays, being “on the grid” refers to much more than our culture’s reliance on public utilities and municipalities. With the dawn of the digital age, all of your personal and private information is interconnected through an intricate web of virtual databases. Phone numbers, addresses, photos, affiliations, memberships and accounts are all accessible with a few clicks … spooky stuff.

It’s important for you and your credit union’s employees, both personally and professionally, to keep personal information protected. While in theory most people will agree, in practice we can display some pretty bad habits.

SplashData compiles an annual list of millions of stolen passwords made public throughout the year. In case you haven’t seen it, here are the most recent top 25 passwords in order of popularity:

  1) 123456 14) abc123
  2) password 15) 111111
  3) 12345 16) mustang
  4) 12345678 17) access
  5) qwerty 18) shadow
  6) 123456789 19) master
  7) 1234 20) michael
  8) baseball 21) superman
  9) dragon 22) 696969
10) football 23) 123123
11) 1234567 24) batman
12) monkey 25) trustno1
13) letmein

Protect your information

Here are a few simple tips for creating a stronger password:
  • Make sure it’s at least eight characters long
  • Include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols
  • Love pizza? Have a favorite pet? Born in January? Nice to know, keep it out of your password! Don’t include details that people know about you or is publicly attainable
  • Use multiple passwords – if one gets cracked, at least the others didn’t
  • If you write it down or keep it in a document, make sure to keep it hidden
  • Don’t give it out to anyone else
Take the time to come up with a good password and protect it. It's an investment that only takes a few minutes, and is well worth it!

Looking for guidance with online security or in need of reliable hosting? CU Solutions Group can help! Contact us today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Five Tips to Tighten Up Your Writing

Writing can be a funny thing. For all the stipulations, rules and wisdom that we picked up in grammar school, sometimes the situation calls for everything to be thrown out the window. Other times, we want our writing to be as clean and concise as possible, following the letter of the law. For whatever the situation calls, here are a few things that are always good to keep in mind…

  • Know your audience – In my experience, this one is probably the most important element. It will dictate the level of detail and type of language that you use. It will determine how technical your speech, and how thoroughly you need to explain.
  • Know your project – This is where adhering to the rules, or throwing them out the window, comes into play. Especially when writing for advertising purposes, writers will often start sentences with “and” and “but,” omit punctuation or use fragments. Rules are ignored so long as the copy is catchy and succinct - but it’s certainly something to avoid in an official memo or press release. Formality will vary greatly from piece to piece.
  • Know the content – We’ve all been there at some point … You’re tasked with a writing assignment, and don’t even know where to start. Don’t know what you’re writing about? Sounds like step one isn’t writing, it’s reading!
  • Active vs passive – Past the basic and into the technical. Juxtaposition of words will govern the strength of your statement. The active statement: “John threw the ball,” is much stronger than the passive: “The ball was thrown by John.”
  • Reducing unnecessary words – Active writing is a good first step towards tightening, and reducing unnecessary words, especially prepositional phrases, is another solid step. Consider that, “It would be best if John threw the ball,” is saying the same thing as, “It would be the best case scenario this time if John threw the ball,” only using less words.

These tips all assume that the writer has a good foundational mastery of grammar, comma usage, spelling, etc. Some are better than others with these basic building blocks, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but keep these few simple tips in mind and keep moving in the right direction.

Need a little help developing copy? Whether you need text for your website, marketing collateral, press releases or social media, CU Solutions Group is here to help. Contact us today and we’ll develop strong and concise copy for any project!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Your Good Work. Your Videos. $ for Your Charities.

Credit unions are all about giving back to their communities. Now they can prove it through a new video campaign that invites credit unions across the country to showcase their good works for a chance to earn tens of thousands of dollars for a chosen charity.

The contest is called Share the Love. The goal is to exponentially increase random acts of kindness across the country through encouraging credit unions to create and share videos that tell the story of the impact of small acts of human compassion while supporting charities in a big way.

How it works:

Credit unions across the nation create videos demonstrating how they care for their communities. Credit unions upload those videos to The public will be invited to vote on their favorite videos in each asset category - small, medium and large. The credit unions that submit the videos which garner the most votes will each choose a charity to receive a $10,000 donation. By the campaign’s end, up to $105,000 will be awarded.

In addition, members of the public who vote throughout the campaign will have an opportunity to win $15,000 in prizes.

2015 Timeline:

  • August 1st –  credit unions begin uploading videos 
  • October 1st – public voting begins
  • October 1st – December 24th – Each month $10,000 is awarded to the chosen charity in the name of the  winner in every asset category
  • The video with the most votes at end of campaign – regardless of asset size – receives another $15,000 for the chosen charity

Starting thinking about all the great ways that your credit union gives back to the community, and how you would best capture it in a video. Complete submission guidelines and Share the Love campaign details can be found at:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Journey to Pluto with CU Wallet!

If you haven’t already seen, NASA just released new images of Pluto taken from the spacecraft New Horizons. The images are quite amazing, and are the clearest, highest-definition photos of Pluto to date.

Go ahead and do a quick image search, we’ll wait…

Pretty neat, huh? While some might consider it a bit of a stretch, these cutting-edge images have quite a few parallels to CU Solutions Group’s new mobile wallet application, CU Wallet. These ventures are all about diving into the new and unexplored for the sake of progress - charting the path to new possibilities.

On the Forefront

Pushing the envelope of technology and setting the stage for the future of things to come, CU Wallet allows your members to pay for goods and services the same way they would with a debit card – only using a mobile device. It’s a venture into new and undiscovered prospects for your credit union, and positions you on the forefront of mobile and digital finance.

To compete in today’s ever-changing digital market, having a mobile wallet solution for your members is an increasing necessity for financial institutions. It’s more than just “nice to have,” and if you wait for your members to ask for it, it might be too late.

A Great Collaboration

CU Solutions Groups has partnered with technology developer CU Wallet on this endeavor, and all moves have been made with sights set on the needs of credit unions and their members. This product can expand your horizons by maximizing interchange revenue, generating new revenue, attracting new members and capitalizing on mobile. If your credit union is ready to take the lead in digital and mobile finance, this is a great place to start.

Contact CU Solutions today for more information on growing your credit union with CU Wallet!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Who’s Really Using Mobile Banking?

The Federal Reserve recently published their Consumers and Mobile Financial Services Report for 2015, and the results give us a glimpse into who is actually using mobile banking services. In case you thought it was just the kids, by the numbers, here’s why your credit union should think again…

  • 87% of the U.S. adult population has a mobile phone
  • 71% of mobile phones are smart phones (internet enabled)
  • 39% of mobile phone owners with a bank account have used mobile banking in the past 12 months (up from 33%)

If they’re using mobile banking, here’s a breakdown of which services they’ve used in the past 12 months:

  • 94% check account balances and/or recent transactions
  • 61% transfer money between accounts
  • 57% receive text, email or push notifications
  • 51% have deposited a check using their mobile phone (up from 38%)

It’s often said that, “it’s not always about where you are, but where you’re going.” While these numbers are certainly telling, what’s more is that they’re rising – and quickly.

When we consider mobile banking, we often gauge its infusion by the amount of younger members that are gradually streaming in the doors of our credit union. What we don’t always take into account, and what this report in particular highlights, it how our adult members are adopting mobile banking as well.

The candle is burning at both ends – don’t get caught in the middle without a solution for your members! You can view more of the findings and the report from the Federal Reserve here. If your credit union is ready to dive into mobile banking, or if your current approach just needs a little developmental fine tuning, contact CU Solutions Group here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Independence Day: A True Credit Union Holiday

by Amy Neale, Content Marketing Manager
(in her last CU Solutions Group blog)

As our country is about to celebrate 239 years of independence this Saturday, I wanted to reflect on how credit unions celebrate independence on a daily basis. 166 years ago, German citizens declared their financial independence with the first credit union. This “people’s bank” was created to provide credit to urban entrepreneurs. The United States followed suit 60 years later. 

While it may seem a bit of a stretch to compare the independence of our country to that of our not-for-profit organizations, I truly don’t think so. Taking a financial institution’s control out of the hands of shareholders and into members’ hands is no small feat. Cooperative in nature from day one, credit unions soon became known as offering an alternative to traditional loans to help the working class in 1800s Germany. This ideal spread to Canada in 1901 when Alphonse Desjardins learned of a resident that was paying $5,000 in interest on a $150 loan. 

When Edward Filene helped credit unions spread to the U.S., he founded them from an employer-based bond of association. Future paychecks were used as collateral, putting financial control even more in the hands of credit union members. 

No matter what country, credit unions worldwide are based on a single principle: that people could pool their money together to make loans to each other. How’s that for independence?

After looking on the NCUA website, I discovered that there are three credit unions with the word “independence” in them, one with “democracy” and a dozen with “free” in their names. I can’t think of too many banks with those words in their names, can you? It’s no coincidence that the most independent financial institutions in the world often have names to reflect their mission.

So, as this year’s Independence Day rolls around, remember that credit unions have a lot to celebrate as well. Hope you all have a fun and safe 4th of July.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Difference Between PR and Marketing for Credit Unions

Gallup recently studied perceived ethics with United States citizens and found that 72% of Americans believe moral values are getting worse in this country rather than better. Credit unions have long been held in high regard by their members and communities for their charitable and altruistic deeds, and perhaps this is a good time to sound off!

Before embarking on a campaign, one of the first things your credit union needs to do is address the differences and similarities between public relations and marketing efforts. Ultimately, many of their focuses are intertwined, and depending on the size and resources of your credit union, these roles may very well be enacted by the same individuals.

How they’re alike…

  • The Narrative – At their core, both PR and marketing look to tell a story, and look to frame it in a very specific way.
  • Creative Development – Not only do they both seek to establish a narrative, they both rely on talented content developers to plan and execute. This often requires a capable and clever writer.
  • Media Channel – More and more, social media is becoming a fundamental component of both marketing and PR for credit unions. There are other channels of course, but whether radio, TV, print or digital, the public consumes this info in increasingly similar ways and through similar channels.
  • Bottom Line – Driving traffic, increasing awareness and bringing more members into the fold. The bottom line will often the same in this aspect.

How they’re different…

  • Message – One of the more obvious aspects. Marketing typically promotes a product or service, whereas PR spreads information to gain exposure.
  • Direction of Interaction – Marketing promotes the transfer of a product or service from the credit union to the member, and PR promotes a bond between the organization and member.
  • Measurement – Marketing tends to be more quantitative in nature, and is measured in dollars and cents by return on investment. PR is more qualitative, and bases success on expressed public opinion and support.
  • By Way of… – In the end, they often serve the same purpose of fortifying and strengthening your credit union, but they achieve this in different ways. Marketing’s goal is financial strength by way of profit, and PR’s goal is enhanced connection with members by way of positive perception.

Depending on your credit union’s needs, public relations and marketing can be approached as two distinctly different ventures, or combined and synthesized into a single effort. With either approach, it’s important to understand and draw distinctions so that you can set the right expectations and get the most out of your labor.

If your credit union needs help promoting all of the great things that you do in your community, or are just looking to help drive the bottom line, CU Solutions Group can help! Contact us today to learn more.