IBM Southeast Employees' Federal Credit Union
Changes the Game with HomeAdvantage
Florida-based IBM Southeast Employees' Federal Credit
Union knew the time was right to refocus on purchase
mortgages: home prices were increasing, the job
market was improving, mortgage rates remained low, and
refinance activities had decreased sharply. But the
$866-million credit union faced a challenge—getting
in front of their home-buying members.
The Boca Raton, Florida-based credit union had previously
built a real estate program that offered real estate agent
connections and a rebate, on top of their own mortgage
products. However, the credit union felt it followed
"old school" thinking, as these extra benefits were
only available at the time a member applied for a mortgage.
Instead, IBM Southeast Employees' FCU wanted to find a
program that helped them attract and identify home buyers
before they were ready to be pre-qualified.
"We were getting to members too late, if at all. And there
wasn't a lot of feedback," said Mark Skinner, Sr. Director
of Real Estate Lending for IBM Southeast Employees' FCU,
who noted that the timing caused the credit union to forfeit
chances to make new home loans to members. "We wanted to find
a way to reach our members before they found an agent or
another lender on their own."
To improve its purchase mortgage game—and put the credit
union in front of members earlier in their home-buying
process—IBM Southeast Employees'
FCU partnered with CU Realty Services and its HomeAdvantage™
program. Designed to position credit unions as members First
Point of Contact
when starting the search for a new home, HomeAdvantage
connects with buyers where 56 percent of all home buyers
go first: the Internet.
The turnkey program features a variety of web-based tools that
help members complete their initial steps in finding a new
home—like the ability to search for
properties online, research neighborhoods and connect
with a recommended real estate agent.
In addition, Skinner says HomeAdvantage allows members to
earn a rebate at closing—which averages $1,545 per
transaction nationally—when they work with an agent
from the program to buy or sell their home.
"HomeAdvantage gives our 72,000 members access to everything
they need to start their search and save money along the
way—right from our credit union's website," Skinner
HomeAdvantage is a registration-based program that asks
a few short questions about the member before the registration
is complete. From that data, IBM Southeast Employees' FCU is
able to access reports that identify which members are looking
to buy, when they plan to buy and if they are pre-qualified.
HomeAdvantage also provides the credit union with the ability
to track members' progress from the initial "just looking"
stage throughout the entire process, which can last up to
"Offering buyers help to begin their home search attracts
members to the credit union's website and opens the door
to nurture them until they're ready to talk
about financing options," said Mike Corn, President/CEO
of CU Realty Services. "That not only means higher purchase
mortgage volumes, but it also leads to a stronger, more
enduring relationship with the member."
And that's exactly the play happening, according to Alex
Yarnell, Director of Marketing and Brand Management at
the credit union. "The response from our members has
"We've already seen a lot of members sign up," Skinner
said. "Because we have branches in more than one state,
we needed the widespread service that CU Realty's
IBM Southeast Employees' FCU initially "soft-launched"
HomeAdvantage last May, and then began a more
highly successful—marketing effort in August. Of the
46,000 emails distributed, nearly 10,000 opened the message.
In just six months, the credit union registered more than
350 members for HomeAdvantage—225 of whom identified
themselves as buyers not yet pre-qualified for a mortgage,
making them strong loan prospects.
"Members are really showing an interest," said Yarnall.
"They're telling their friends and coworkers how pleased
they are with the program and many are 'liking' us on
Facebook, so the word-of-mouth 'buzz' is causing
registrations to almost go viral."
IBM Southeast Employees' Federal Credit Union has found a
program that solves the issue, while members get to find
the home of their dreams and save money. "This is a home
run for members and the credit union," said Skinner.
For credit unions looking to boost their purchase mortgage
volumes, HomeAdvantage may be the winning strategy needed
to attract a new member audience and stay connected with
them until they are ready for financing.
Tips For Success
Skinner and Yarnell say the most important ingredient for
success of any new program is passion for the product.
The credit union invested time and resources to ensure
its entire staff and members knew about the HomeAdvantage
program and its benefits.
Use a variety of marketing channels
The credit union features HomeAdvantage on its website,
social media, member newsletter, and on-hold messages.
Choose the target audience
Initially, the credit union sent promotional email blasts
to all members. Subsequent messages targeted members based
on their credit scores, ability to afford a mortgage,
locations, and other demographics.
Time it right
Skinner and Yarnall say Friday afternoons have been the
most effective time to send emails. Also, they suggest
sending permission-based, drip-email or text messages.
Repetition is important for increasing recall, but
overdoing it will annoy recipients.
Encourage members to share their own experience
The credit union plans to incorporate video testimonials
on its website from members who used the program.