Zia Credit Union’s Notable Growth Spurred by Partnership With Your Marketing Co.
By W.B. King
Mark Twain's quote “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” could easily be applied to the $204 million Zia Credit Union. Why? CEO Dwayne Herrera points to a recent request for the organization to merge with an area financial institution, to which he said: “We don’t need to.”
Among reasons the Los Alamos, N.M.-based credit union has turned down such offers is due, in part, to its 2022 scorecard. Leading statistics include a return on assets (ROA) of 1.1%, loan growth of 15.7% and membership growth of 3.19%.
Supporting 12,500 members and 60 employees (full and part-time) at three branch locations, Zia Credit Union’s competition, however, is never out of sight.
“We are small in our area compared to others. I look out my office window and see a billion dollar credit union that we compete heavily against and when I look out the other window I see a multi-billion dollar bank that we also compete with,” Herrera told Finopotamus.
These challenges, he explained, forced the credit union to “standout” when considering marketing campaigns. “We couldn’t compete with money or resources or technology, so we really set out on a mission to be a little different.”
The Zia Zap
This approach to be different includes working with Your Marketing Co. (YMC). The Greenville, S.C.-based organization offers strategic planning, branding and marketing specifically for credit unions. YMC’s five-year relationship with Zia Credit Union began two years before Herrera assumed the role of CEO in 2020.
“In the last three years, and particular in the last year, we have worked pretty closely with YMC as our marketing and digital consultant,” Herrera said.
YMC’s CEO Bo McDonald told Finopotamus that Zia Credit Union has always been focused on supporting the needs of its valued membership.
“The team has been willing to work with us and let go of preconceived notions about marketing, so we can help drive the results they’re seeking,” he shared. “That’s important.”
During their first meeting, Herrera said something that stuck out to McDonald and his team: “He always wanted to be a superhero,” McDonald recalled. This resulted in an innovative campaign, a 40-second commercial that turned Herrera into a caped Claymation hero who has the “power” to “zap down” interest rates for car loans.
“We can pitch Dwayne some crazy stuff and dig deep and he will always ponder it and ask questions — he’s willing to be different and standout in the community, which benefits the credit union’s bottom line,” he noted.
“Every year we worked with them they keep doing better,” said McDonald, adding that this was but one of a handful of successful marketing campaigns with Zia Credit Union. “This year is the pinnacle of their success.”
Don’t Die on The Vine
Herrera explained that going into 2023, he and his team believed it wasn’t going to be a banner year for growth, so he measured expectations. This included a forecasted 2% growth for membership and checking/assets. For loan growth, however, he set a 5% bench mark for December 2023.
“For lending, we are already closer to 6% (at the end of February). We had a lot of momentum coming in from 2022 because we did a lot of training with our lenders streamlining promotions and incentives,” he said. “This results in a lot more business for us. We concentrate on what we are really good at and that is consumer lending.”
For smaller credit unions considering partnering with a company like YMC, Herrera said keep an open mind. “Credit unions must grow in order to survive,” he said, adding that growth often requires outside help.
“If we are not growing, we are dying on the vine. It’s about setting lofty goals and having the marketing back it up — getting everyone on the same page,” he said, noting that Zia Credit Union has one part-time marketing employee who recently hired a fulltime assistant. And soon, through an educational grant, a paid marketing intern from the University of New Mexico will join the fold.
“This is another reason YMC has been a good partner for us — they have the copywriters and graphic designer who are able to support us,” he said. “They understand small credit unions well and don’t take multiple clients in one area, so we are not competing with anyone else for YMC’s attention. They’ve been a fantastic partner for us.”