CU 2.0 Podcast Episode 141: Teresa Freeborn CUNA’s “Open Your Eyes” – a Return Conversation

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CUNA is still at its “Open Your Eyes” to a credit union campaign and Teresa Freeborn is still heading the effort.  Regular listeners will remember Freeborn from her podcast two years ago, episode 29, and when she asked for a return we gladly said yes.

You probably heard that CUNA paused the campaign last year for what was called a re-set. Freeborn tells what happened.

Along the way, CUNA spun the campaign off as a separate company January 1, 2020. The campaign now is led by CU Awareness, LLC

Freeborn also tells what is happening now where about half the nation’s states are on board with supporting the campaign and more are on tap to go online this year.

Freeborn stresses in the podcast that this is a critical chance for credit unions to join together in lifting what has been a long stagnant market share.  The big banks keep getting bigger.  Credit unions need to fight the trend.

Freeborn’s belief is that the cooperative structure and nature of credit unions is a huge advantage – but it is not always cleverly deployed. The “Open Your Eyes” campaign is a step in that direction.

(On that note, do read the CUInsight blog “Credit unions, Quo Vadis,” which draws on a conversation with retired credit union CEO Jim Blaine to develop the theme that the cooperative foundation is the key to success in credit unions.)

In this podcast Freeborn clearly discusses her disappointments in leading this campaign and at the top of the list, there is meager participation among credit unions with over $1 billion in assets.  By her count just 98 of the biggest 320 credit unions are supporting “Open Your Eyes” – and their maximum annual contribution is capped at $500,000. Freeborn does not know why the biggest are holding back and she is plain in her unhappiness about this.

“We are trying to build the credit union brand,” said Freeborn and her point is that a rising tide lifts all ships.  The campaign will benefit all credit unions.

Why don’t more people join and make real use of credit unions? They don’t believe they can join one and if they can, they don’t believe it could have the national reach of the biggest banks.  The facts are different – but many in the consuming public just don’t know.  Thus the need for a continuing campaign to put credit unions on the minds of many of us.

By the way, “Open Your Eyes” is an entirely digital campaign and you may think, I have never seen an ad.  Freeborn says she too has never seen an ad but she is happy about that because the campaign  is targeted – specifically at Millennials – and she is not in that group.

So if you are not seeing ads just maybe that means the campaign is functioning as designed.

Just coincidentally, on the day we talked for this podcast, Xceed, where Freeborn had been CEO, voted to merge with Kinecta. 83% of voting Xceed members approved the merger, which has created a $6 billion credit union, the nations 35th largest.  Freeborn is staying on as president and has promised a return visit to discus in detail the merger and what it may mean for credit unions.

This podcast is only about “Open Your Eyes.”  That’s a huge topic on its own.

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