The Alternative to Doing Nothing: Bucks First FCU’s Project Flipside

by bradywalen on December 2, 2009

We’ve heard quite a few stories this year about institutions opening branches in local high schools as means to better serve and attract younger consumers.  When I read an article about Bucks First Federal Credit Union’s ($88 mil. / Bristol, PA) Palisades High School branch in Kintnersville, PA opening last week, I didn’t think much of it.  But I was intrigued by the photo of the branch included in the article – namely, the paint splatter behind the teller line.  A quick search revealed that Bucks First FCU has an extensive Generation Y initiative despite the fact that it only has two branch locations (other than the high school branch).

The initiative is called Project: Flipside, with the tagline “the alternative to doing nothing”.  There’s a great corresponding website: www.projectflipside.com complete with a blog, contests, events, financial education (cleverly positioned as ‘the alternative’), and a savings/checking account appropriately named the flipside account.

The website is simple and straightforward, and a welcome relief from the flashy and often times overwhelming websites that we’ve become used to seeing in efforts to target Gen Y.  This site comes across as authentic – written by people who are somewhere between 16-25 for their peers in the same age group. 

While there are some similar elements to this campaign as we’ve seen with others (i.e.  a branded car that visits sponsored events, a contest to select representatives of the campaign/spokespeople, and Facebook/MySpace/Flickr links), there are some interesting and different points about this effort worth noting:

  • There are three representatives for Project Flipside – known as the ‘crew’
  • The blog posts aren’t limited to financial advice, tips or product related information.  This blog includes a variety of topics from funny random videos to some that hint at financial related material.
  • The site has an easy contest for a $25 gift card: simply submit your name and email

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Project Flipside is the ‘Flip your Fees’ classes that are offered to customers where any overdraft fees during the course of a month can be reversed simply by attending a class offered by the Credit Union.  It’s a great idea: there’s incentive for customers to attend the courses (to reverse overdrafts), and the information will likely stick with them as a result.  People can even sign up for classes online (although the class schedule needs to be updated).

The tagline for the initiative is also really well done: “the alternative to doing nothing.”  Many of today’s younger consumers need to be proactive if they’re going to learn about personal finance.  While some do nothing, this tagline speaks to those willing to be proactive in their learning.

While I would like to see some aspects of the site updated – namely, the ‘flip your fees’ class schedule – and I’d like to see more events and blog comments,  overall, this initiative appears to be pretty strong.  The Generation Y ‘crew’, the website, the high school branch, the social media elements, the events, the contests, etc. all seem to be cohesive and integrated.  At the same time, none of these comes across as overly cheesy – something we’ve seen when institutions try too hard to be ‘cool’.

My biggest question here would be relative to the market selected for the high school branch - Palisades High School in Kintnersville is 40 miles from the nearest Bucks First branch and 70 miles from the main office.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Balakoff December 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Brady, I am the Business Development Specialist at Bucks First FCU and would like to thank you for your review of our Project Flipside program.

I would also like to answer your question as to why we put our new student branch in Palisades H.S.

We are a community credit union that serves ALL of Bucks County and are always looking for ways to expand throughout the county. This branch was a way for us to do that. We were also origanally founded as Bucks County Schools FCU and have a strong relationship with the school districts throughout the county and have many members within those schools, including Palisades H.S. Opening a student branch has always been a goal of ours due to our relationship with the schools and Palisades H.S. was one of the first to step up and show interest. From the initial stages of setting up the student branch Palisades has been willing and excited to embrace the program.

This is just our first student branch of what we hope will be many to come.

Brady Walen December 2, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Gary, thanks for your comment and for clarifying the issue around the high school branch location. In looking at all of Bucks County, the location does make sense – I’ll be interested in seeing how your branching strategy moves forward – and whether that will focus on these in-school branches.

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