Banking fees are annoying - and irritating. Of all the things consumers hate about banking, fees rank at the very top. As a credit union, we work hard to make sure we operate in keeping with our philosophy. We talk about our values often and we have a statement about our values and how they inform our approach towards fees:
"Not for profit, nor for charity, but for service. Fees and charges support costs, fees and charges reflect good value and fees and charges achieve service goals."
So, what do these statements mean? We are not trying to make money off our fees - we are a not-for-profit organization. On the other hand, we are not a charitable organization either. It is not our job to give services away for free that cost money to provide. That would mean some members would get something that other members pay for. WSECU is a service organization and we try to balance the costs that come with providing you service in a way that provides good value. We also use fees as a way to introduce new service offerings that we feel might be better for members or cost our cooperative less to provide than traditional banking. Often this pricing approach is used to introduce new technologies to members. We understand that trying something new can be a reach for many - we sometimes offer a special incentive for our members to try something new. This year, our Board of Directors is taking a new look at our fees. We want to review our entire fee structure - sort of like an audit - and evaluate if we can craft a better fee structure that more closely reflects our values and philosophy. We are doing this for a couple of reasons. First of all, many new rules and regulations have been approved in the last few years and these new rules do have an impact on the way we do business. We respond to changes immediately as regulations require - we have not stepped back to take a look at the whole picture since the primary new regulation (the Dodd-Frank Act) was passed in 2010. In addition, improved technologies have made many banking services faster and more convenient. We want to take a look at how members use our products to see if there is any way we can make it easier and less expensive for everyone.
Please understand that our primary goal is to decrease fees where we can. I understand that a consumer reading this blog post might assume that the CEO is talking about fees as a way of sugar-coating plans to introduce new fees. That is not the case. Our Board of Directors is made up of members like you - they want lower fees (or no fees) if we can accomplish that in a prudent way. That is why credit unions in general have lower fees than our other banking counterparts.
On a personal note, I have worked for credit unions since I was an undergraduate in college. I understand from many years of experience how consumers view fees - and how irritating and annoying they can be. On the other hand, I know that members will respond strongly to a financial incentive - or dis-incentive - that any given fee structure provides. As we adjust our fees, we try to anticipate how members will react. This is not a perfect science - and sometimes trial and error is the only option open to us.
We look forward to your engagement in this process. One of the things we hope will happen as we make changes to increase the feedback we get from members is to get a better idea of what you think. Please don't hesitate to contact us to share your opinion.