Young & Free St. Louis launches today. Sometimes it's worth the wait!

On October 4, 2007, I gave a presentation at the FORUM Solutions Partnership Symposium in Indiana. As part of my talk, I introduced Young & Free Alberta, which had just launched that day.

In the audience was Eric Acree, the Executive Vice President of Vantage Credit Union in St. Louis, Missouri. He was immediately struck by the concept and when he learned in early 2008 that Young & Free was going North America wide, he championed the concept at Vantage and signed the first US contract. Vantage has the exclusive rights to Missouri, but chose to go with the Young & Free St. Louis name since all of their branches are located in the Greater St. Louis area with spill over into southern Illinois.

Why the two-and-half-year wait? The folks at Vantage had some very big plans! Vantage has paired Young & Free with an incredible new account and a custom-built online banking system specifically designed for the 18-to-25 crowd. All built in-house!

Dubbed Not Your Mama's Account, it has an impressive mix of products and services, but the real key is the online experience with significant real-world members benefits.

At the center of the package is the coolest online banking system that I have ever seen. In addition to standard banking and bill pay capabilities, this next generation of online banking system includes:

  • Personal finance tool that uses keyword “tagging” and feeds spending/saving forecasts to help members with budgeting
  • Relevant merchant ads and coupon offers based on merchants/services used according to actual transaction history
  • Social media integration that incorporates real-time feeds from the member's own Twitter and Facebook accounts, and feeds from the VantageCU Twitter account and website
  • Value-offer summaries let members know how much they’ve saved or could have saved based on coupons redeemed as well as Vantage offers/savings and rebates received
  • All-inclusive landing page that incorporates a high-level total services view, spending forecast, holds/alerts, last five transactions, upcoming bills, quick transfer feature, spending tags, merchant ads and coupons, Vantage offers/savings and rebates, and social media feeds, all in one single view

What I love is the very unique approach to budgeting. The system does not require young people to spend a lot of time setting up a PFM tool and dedicating ongoing time to updating and monitoring their budget. Instead, the system learns about your habits and forecasts your spending automatically and presents that info to you on the dashboard at all times.

In addition, the ability to deliver relevant ads and coupons for specific spending habits is awesome. Vantage has built an incredible self-serve advertising platform on the back-end for local merchants complete with Google map integration. I've seen the demo a couple of times now and it's impressive.

Near the end of the CEO intro video, Hubert Hoosman, Jr. touches on a few of the features. Check it out.

We have proven that the Young & Free concept works at attracting young adults to credit unions and we know that when there is a unique and attractive product offer coupled with the program, young people become members. We are so looking forward to seeing what happens when something truly different and new is added to the mix!

Every Young & Free region comes together when a senior champion believes in it and when there is a great supporting cast. St. Louis is no exception. It's been great working with Eric and his team including Kathy, Cam, Matt, Sarah and Jennifer.

Please take a moment and visit the Young & Free St. Louis microsite. You can also follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Tim