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7/24/2003

CU credit union hires consumer expert

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — Officials hope it will help drum up business, but they insist that’s not the only reason for the move.

The U of C Federal Credit Union has brought in well-known consumer advocate Remar Sutton to act as its “independent consumer activist and spokesperson,” offering members and nonmembers alike advice on such issues as buying a car and taking out a home mortgage.

“What happened was one of our board members saw an article about Remar using education as a differentiator in the financial community, so they brought that to our board, of which I am a liaison, and they actually saw real value in this,” said Rich Jones, the credit union’s vice president of marketing.

The plan is for Sutton to offer totally unbiased advice, said Jones, adding that the credit union will not control what advice he doles out.

“It was very important that as Remar and I were shaping this that we kind of kept that arm’s length,” Jones said. “The ultimate goal of this partnership is just to make a safe haven for our customers No. 1 and the community No. 2, because that’s where we do our business.”

Sutton is the co-founder of both the Consumer Task Force for Automotive Issues and the Privacy Rights Now Coalition. Also an author and a columnist for the Washington Post, he and his work have been featured on television programs such as “20/20,” “60 Minutes” and “Nightline.”

His arrangement with the CU credit union is the fifth such one he has struck with credit unions around the country.

On the Web site for Austin, Texas’ University Federal Credit Union, there is an section devoted to Sutton’s advice on car buying and buying a home, and Jones said a similar section — called “RealityCheck” — will become part of the U of C site by early August.

The content that Sutton produces for the U of C Web site will be localized for the Colorado market, he said.

“We’ve seen around the country where we’ve done this program the credit unions have grown dramatically,” Sutton said. “Being a true ethical partner to the consumer is the best business move a credit union can make.”

Sutton was recently in Boulder as the credit union announced its relationship with him, and he hosted a “Smart Strategies for Car Buying” seminar that was open to the public. An auto-buying manual handed out at the seminar is now available for download for free on the credit union’s Web site.

The information Sutton provides and the seminars he hosts when he’s in town will be accessible to members of the credit union and nonmembers alike, Sutton said, which is what makes it such a unique arrangement.

“So much of what we do is not about the product or service that the credit union sells,” Sutton said. He added that the motto for the program is, “If making a wise decision means going somewhere else than we will send this member somewhere else.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.