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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Ghettoization of Priority One


Earlier today, we obtained a copy of Priority One Credit Union's March 2009 newsletter. In it, the letter contains what is supposed to be helpful and informative information for members and President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr.'s usual address to the membership.

His message aside, the address is a wonderful testament to the President's mindset and reveals something about his skills as an executive and his intellect. In the current address, we were left with the impression that the President is not particularly optimistic about the credit union's future. During the past two years in which he's served as President of the formerly successful credit union, Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. has proven he's less financial expert and leader than a mere dilettante; and less a leader of industry than an interloper. 

On January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. began his appointment as President and CEO, previously used stuffers once mailed to members to inform them of specific promotions, were replaced by a monthly newsletter. According to the President, the newsletter could better serve to promote products and services than could mailing stuffers, post cards and fliers.  Furthermore, the President believed the newsletter would generate more attention because in his words, "It contains articles that members will find interesting." 

We believe all businesses need to frequently find new ways to promote their products and services because the marketplace changes frequently and often, dramatically. Keeping abreast of new products and services helps any business in creating strategies that address the specific needs and wants of their marketplace or in the case of Priority One, its marketplaces.  

As we read through the newsletter, it became immediately apparent that President Wiggington's newsletter is inferior in content and construction to the newsletters published under his predecessor, William E. Harris. There are sufficient grammatical and syntax errors to suggest the contents of the letter are not be read before its sent to the printing company.If the newsletter is to serve as a vehicle through which to increases sales and membership, then Priority One had better try harder to create a more quality and better written production. May we suggest the credit union stop using slang and colloquial terminology or phrases specific to certain ethnic groups. The latter is particularly important because it will keep the credit union from donning a segregationist position which excludes sectors of its membership. The credit union's marketing efforts won't succeed if they use strategies that appeal to only one ethnic group while excluding other sectors of their marketplace. Furthermore, the language being employed by the credit union which appeals to one ethnic sector has no meaning to other demographics.  

The March 2009, Newsletter

The front of the newsletter contains large type announcing, "We Have Auto Loans" followed by the invitation, "Finance your new vehicle or refinance an existing vehicle with another institution and receive our special rate."

Is Priority One suggesting members and potential members seek financing with other institutions or are they extending an invitation that asks members to come to Priority One to refinance loans formerly financed by other institutions?  

Is Priority One asking members refinance their automobiles at other institutions? Or, are they asking members to bring their automobile loans currently financed by another institution, so that these may be refinanced at a lower APR? 

The advertisement also states, "Buy before CA sales tax increase of April 1 and the CA licensing fee increase of Mary 19, 2009" We're curious to know by what percentage are taxes and licensing fees going to increase?

In smaller font, the credit union states, "Depending on taxpayer’s income, a provision allows most taxpayers to deduct state sales taxes and licensing fees on new cars purchased between Feb 17 and Dec 31, 2009."

“Depending” on what amount of income might taxpayers be able to claim automobile sales taxes and licensing fees on their tax returns? What provision? Why wasn't the specific provision cited? Can the credit union be less specific? Even the hedge language contained in the advertisement is ambiguous.

The President's Message

The President's message to members is embarrassingly bad. Did anyone proofread his message before deciding it should be sent to the printing company? We've highlighted in red, language which should have been removed and have amended some of the words used. Here is the President's address: 

The year of 2008 proved to be a very challenging year nationwide. 

I know some of you have experienced some difficulties with loss of employment, reduction of working hours, etc. To provide some assistance, your Credit Union has developed a “loan modification program" in your time of need.

The loan modification program is a service that your Credit Union is offering to members that have some life changing events with loss of income, an increase of mortgage payment, medical bills etc. One of the ways a loan modification works is by extending the term of the loan, which in most cases will lower the monthly payment and can give some immediate relief. Please contact the Credit Resolutions Staff for more information.

Recently we have experienced more than 4000 VISA check cards being compromised. (A Compromised card means that your card information has possibly been stolen.) An outside processor that most merchants use to have their transactions processed had their files compromised. Many financial institutions have experienced the same.

We have sent letters to all affected members advising of this situation and instructions on how the Credit Union would handle the situation. If you were affected and you still have questions, please feel free to contact the Credit Union. Also, refer to Compromised Cards-Frequently asked Questions on the reverse side.

Charles R. Wiggington, Sr.


The invitation for those seeking loan modification requires they call Credit Resolutions, the credit union's internal credit collector. 

Members beware. The real reason the President is asking members to contact Credit Resolutions is so that they may speak to the department's representatives who will ask or demand they make payments on loans and accounts that are delinquent. We know this because the President recently revealed that this would be one way of speaking to members who are not returning messages left on their voicemails, requesting they submit payments needed to make their accounts current. What the President also fails to mention is that the requirements to qualify for loan modification are rather stringent.

The President states, "One of the ways a loan modification works is by extending the term of the loan". Of course this is the way, versus "One of the ways",  loan modification works. To reduce the amount of a member's monthly payment so that it is more palatable financially, requires extending the term of the loan though that also adds interest charges which are how the credit union generates profit. 

The President also states, "In most cases [the modification plan] will lower the monthly payment and can give some immediate relief". In most cases? Isn't the purpose of seeking modification to ensure reduced monthly payments in all cases
The President also addresses the subject of a recent security breach affecting check cards issued by the credit union. He attributes the compromise to an "outside processor." Over the past 2 1/2 years, this is the third time cards have been compromised. The real issue is why are Priority One issued check cards being compromised. This brings into question the effectiveness of the credit union's internal security protocols.Why are these failing to protect members? It's also quite clear that the President is blaming the unnamed "outside processor" but the fact he avoids explaining how the compromise occurred leads us to think that the culprit is the credit union. By the way, the outside processor the President is referring to is PEMCO. 


You no longer have to close your Priority One accounts if you are planning on moving outside of the communities serviced by the credit union. The credit union is now a member of the Shared Branching network which means you have access to your accounts from many locations across the U.S. One feature of Shared Branching is that it offers the use of surcharge-free ATM's. What this means is, members can use ATM's without incurring charges. What the credit union failed to mention is that you can also use ATM's located at 7-11 stores, nationwide to both withdraw and deposit money and checks. 

And though a person can visit "other" credit unions to withdraw or deposit money into the Priority One accounts or to submit payments against their loans, the fact is, services are extremely limited when visiting other credit unions. They can't for example, resolve issues involving your Priority One accounts nor can they open a loan application. Shared Branching is a wonderful service but it is no substitution for have a real branch. Subsequently, it is advisable to just open an account at a credit union or bank where you are moving to.


The question is asked in the newsletter and invites members to call Priority One so that its staff can "run the numbers for you."   Run the numbers? 


The credit union recently mailed out letters to its members informing them that debit cards may have been compromised. What this means is that member personal data relating to their debit cards has been accessed without authorization for the purpose of stealing information. 

According to the credit union, "Priority One Credit Union takes every compromise seriously. Affected members will receive written notification if their card information has been potentially compromised. POCU will issue a new debit card to affected members. In those cases, a BLOCK DATE for your compromise card will be included in your letter."

The term "Block date" is purely internal reference that should not have been used in their notice. It merely means that this is the date, the card was terminated so that no further compromises could occur. The credit union seems to have a problem with conveying thoughts clearly and concisely and the information contained in the current newsletter reveals just how inept President Wiggington is at communication.

The President has had ample time to create a clean, sleek, cutting edge newsletter but has instead opted to publish a document that screams, "GE...TOE!" If any of you have retained past copies of the credit union's newsletter, take a moment to reread (or read them for the first time). They are saturated with syntax and grammatical errors and utilize internal terms only understandable to employees of a financial institution and terminology which is ethnically specific. 
In the end, the newsletter is a metaphor for Wiggington's mode of management and proves he is an adherent to the two "S's": Shoddy and sub-par. 

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Anonymous said...

As a successful marketer [I go to Ralphs and Vons mostly], the newsletter in the statement is completely lost for those members who have elected to receive e-statements. Paper statements are not the medium of choice for the younger generations.

I believe in being fair and balanced and, as such, I should point out that the newsletter could have been referring to the Heartland Data Systems breach. This breach is the largest in U.S. history and has affected tens of millions of accountholders at types and sizes of financial institutions.

Lexington Steele said...

I would like to verify Sir Charles is not Ghetto - he is from South Central via Compton. That is considered upper class.

Where are the financial statement results for February. Why are they not posted in the credit union. What is the hold-up?

seeking justice said...

Sir Charles famous quote "keep your enemies close." Maybe that's why he and Smock are so loyal to each other....hmmmm! something to think about

B. Madoff said...

For the sake of the members who have been leaving Priority One in droves I am hoping for positive earnings for February.

But somehow I have a feeling Sir Charles and his cronies will be unable to make a profit.

John, Is Wiggy and the board still attending pricey conferences in luxury and exotic locales while the economy slumps?

Del said...

The breach was with PEMCO- again.

Betty said...

Dear anonymous,

I am no sure that paper statements are so much lost on younger generations as they are less convenient,possibly cumbersome, and for those who are environmentally conscious, a way of reducing the use of wood for something that will end up being thrown out or not read at all.

However, when you choose to introduce a product or service that potentially may adversely impact the livelihood of your core member group, you may want to carefully consider how you are going to market, implement, and offer that product or service. Many postal employees have expressed their dissatisfaction over this service because in their opinion, it reduces their work which in turn, threatens their jobs and financial security.

John said...

They are planning an upcoming trip but for the month of February, they did not take part in any special junkets (nor should they have).

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