Up until the moment I handed him the “giant check,” Richard Huff and his family didn’t quite believe APCU was paying off his auto loan.

“It just seemed too good to be true,” said his mother, who came with him to the branch to claim his prize.

Richard won our Auto Loan Payoff Sweepstakes, which he entered simply by financing his new 2020 Camry LE with the Credit Union between April 1 and June 30. Now, we were paying off his $29,900.75 loan before he’d even made the first payment.

“I never win anything,” Richard said at the time. “And to win this is huge. This is money I’m going to put back into savings – money that will help me buy a house in the next year.”

APCU strives to help all our members achieve financial success by providing exceptional products and service. I consider the Sweepstakes a win for the fact that we enhanced Richard’s future, alone. But to be honest, this campaign created several wins for the Credit Union, and its members.

Solid Success

Right off the bat, the APCU Auto Loan Sweepstakes succeeded in its most important goal: it provided us with an opportunity to help our members succeed financially by leading them toward auto loans with better rates and terms than they would find elsewhere.

In fact, APCU saw a 14.7% increase in auto loan generation during this year’s promotion as we did compared to the same time period in 2018, 2019 and 2020. A total of 1,300 members financed (or refinanced outside loans) with APCU during the time period allotted for the Sweepstakes.

Those loans generated profits that – as a cooperative – we were able to transfer back to our members in the form of lower loan rates and better services.

That generation happened quickly, too. During April, the first month of the Sweepstakes, the Credit Union earned more than $100,000 in interest from auto loans – more than enough to make up for the nearly $30K we spent to pay off Richard’s auto loan. That’s $100,000 we’re now able to give back to all our members in direct benefits.

By the end of the sweepstakes, we funded about $46.4 million in loans for our members. Basically, the ROI on this project was through the roof.

How It Started

The APCU Auto Loan Sweepstakes was born out of the need for increased creativity to offer much needed loans to members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a postal credit union, APCU serves a variety of Select Employee Groups (SEG) related to that profession (such as the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA), the African American Postal League United for Success (A-PLUS), United Postmasters and Managers of America, among others.). Normally, we dedicate resources toward maintaining a presence at multiple conferences and conventions throughout the year to support these groups and to inform them of the products and services APCU can offer.

But, as you probably guessed, 2020 brought with it many cancellations. Suddenly, we didn’t have those in-person events. We needed a creative solution to reach more of these members. In particular, we ended up with a need to spark some interest in auto loans among NRLCA, our largest SEG.

I began to wonder whether we could attract a significant enough number of auto loans from NRLCA if we offered to pay off one member’s loan completely.

Initial Success

NRLCA provided an ideal incubator in which to test this Sweepstakes initially, as we already had a strong relationship with the organization. Of course, all members were eligible to participate, but we channeled our communication through NRLCA at first.

In the end, we paid off a $17,000 auto loan for a gentleman who had recently purchased a pickup truck – and we generated 140 new and refinanced auto loans from NRLCA members alone.

Looking at the ROI, we knew the 2020 sweepstakes had been a success among our NRLCA members. I couldn’t see any reason the Sweepstakes wouldn’t be just as successful among our general member population. So, heading into the budget cycle for 2021, we increased the money and resources behind our experiment and brought it to our overall membership.

This iteration of the Sweepstakes required cooperation from several departments including lending, enterprise risk management, loan servicing and marketing. Ultimately, that teamwork paid off and we’ve been pleased to see success translate on a bigger scale.

Looking to the future

We aren’t done with the Auto Loan Sweepstakes, yet.

Look for another run of this promotion from APCU in the future. Next time, we’re planning to experiment with more specific and strategic parameters. We may look at the Sweepstakes to drive some of our ancillary products, along with our auto loans.

But what I’m most excited to see next time around are the people who enter because they heard about how APCU looks out for our members from others who funded auto loans with us during the last promotion. After his win, for instance, Richard told me his brother may be looking to buy a car next. He said he’d advise his brother to finance with APCU during our next Auto Loan Sweepstakes.

The chance to generate that kind of buzz from potential new members – the opportunity to help more people to take advantage of our top-notch products and services – has been the real win from APCU’s Auto Loan Sweepstakes for me.

About Author:
Blake Graham serves as both the Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer (CLO) at APCU. He joined the Credit Union in 2014 as the Vice President of Lending, and, working with various lending teams, helped in the startup and success of APCU’s centralized lending platform. Graham was promoted to CLO in 2017 and has since aided the Mortgage, Consumer and Business lending teams in achieving record-breaking levels of production. In 2020, Graham received the title of Executive Vice President, while retaining his role as CLO. Graham holds a Bachelor of Science in Administrative Services from Valdosta State University and a Master of Arts in Management from the University of Alabama. He excels in strategic leadership and is committed to developing people and seeking opportunities for new growth for APCU.

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