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At the very heart of the credit union movement is the spirit of service and cooperation. Credit unions have always strived to provide superior service to their members and to work with each other in a totally cooperative manner. A perfect example of this cooperation can be found in Long Island, New York where a group of credit unions have forged a unique partnership to help the residents of the island get the best deals and rates on new and used cars. The facilitator for this joint venture is an exceptional company called GrooveCar. Entirely credit union focused, GrooveCar is a complete automotive resource and buying service, portal, and automated indirect lending system. GrooveCar has been assisting New York area credit unions for years, and is currently poised for nationwide expansion with the introduction of their automated, state-of-the-art loan processing system.
People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union (PAFCU) is one Long Island-based credit union that is reaping the benefits of their relationship with GrooveCar. Joanne Steigerwald, PAFCU’s Vice President of Operations, has been with the credit union for over twenty years and oversees the Lending Department. She says that “No individual credit union on Long Island could provide enough benefit to gain the focused cooperation needed from car dealers. GrooveCar served as a liaison between the dealers and the credit unions and really got everyone working together.” David Jacobson, who is CEO of GrooveCar and has deep connections to the automotive industry, met with the CEOs of many of the Long Island credit unions – who range in size from $20 million to over $2 billion in assets – and convinced them that his dynamic company could build a successful relationship between them and the dealers in the New York/New Jersey area. According to Steigerwald, he has done just that: “GrooveCar is a great thing – it has really benefited everyone.”
Anyone who has ever purchased a car knows just how stressful it can be. GrooveCar’s goal is to remove the stress and make it as easy as possible for a credit union member to find and finance a new or used car. From A to Z, GrooveCar guides the member through the car buying maze of options: side-by-side comparisons, dealer invoices and MSRPs, rebates, incentives, book values, warranties, insurance, and of course great credit union financing rates. “GrooveCar does the shopping for our members and gets them the best price, plus they make sure that they get fair pricing on extended warranties,” explains Steigerwald. She adds all of the feedback that we have received from our members about their GrooveCar experience has been positive. GrooveCar has even gone out to the dealer with members to resolve any issues they may encounter!”
While credit union members in Long Island are enjoying the GrooveCar service, the credit unions are equally ecstatic. For example, just at People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union alone, they have seen a ramp up in loan applications from just under 200 in January 2005 to over 750 in August 2005. Along with these significant increases in automobile loan volumes, PAFCU is also experiencing a side benefit: new member growth and the accompanying products and services that they use. New member growth has been so rapid and the new members so pleased with working with the credit union on their car loans, that PAFCU has had to create a whole new department to handle the new member growth generated by their GrooveCar relationship. This department works with the new members to get them setup with many of the other financial products that the credit union handles.
In terms of how her Lending Department handles the loan applications that come through GrooveCar from the hundreds of dealers, Steigerwald and the other senior managers at the credit union are thrilled with “AppTrac”, GrooveCar’s automated loan processing system. “Our loan officers just love AppTrac,” she enthuses, and “they wish that all of our loans could go through this easy to use system.” In action, both dealers and loan officers simply login to the secure GrooveCar.com website to access the system. Each credit union sets their individual criteria according to their risk preferences – anything that meets their guidelines is approved on the spot for the dealer in just a few seconds. If the member or potential member does not receive instant approval, a loan officer back at the credit union receives an alert and immediately begins working on the application to see if they can close the deal. Their turnaround time on this process has been drastically reduced. Steigerwald describes GrooveCar’s AppTrac as “an unbelievably powerful and easy to use system – it automatically checks the credit bureau, OFAC, and flags any problems with the application.”
GrooveCar not only guides the member through the car buying process and maintains the indirect lending infrastructure for the credit unions, but they also work with their ever-growing dealer network to educate them about the benefits of working with credit unions. With years of hands-on experience working for and with auto dealers, the GrooveCar staff knows their concerns. They have developed a comprehensive dealer-training program and regularly make visits to the dealers to answer their questions and make sure they understand the benefits of working with GrooveCar’s credit unions. They even offer a “BlastFax” service that keeps the dealers up to speed on the latest interest rate updates at the credit unions and any changes in credit union’s field of membership.
GrooveCar also maintains close ties with their credit union clients by meeting quarterly with them. As far as day-to-day technical support goes, Steigerwald is pleased to report, “we have really good communications with GrooveCar. They are extremely responsive to our e-mails and phone calls, and their staff is well trained and knowledgeable.” Overall it has been a win-win-win scenario: the members receive good deals on cars and rates; the credit unions get more loans and members; and the dealers sell more cars. She concludes that “I really can’t say enough good things about GrooveCar – it has been a great relationship.”