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Leaders in Lending | Ep. 132

Going Fee-free: Reimagining Member Satisfaction

Stacy Armijo — Chief Experience Officer at Amplify Credit Union — joins our host Drew Megrey to discuss Amplify's member-centric approach of eliminating fees, and how they've realigned their business model to meet the needs of their communities. 

Stacy Armijo-modified


Stacy Armijo

Stacy Armijo is the chief experience officer for Amplify Credit Union, overseeing nearly $3 billion in assets across Austin. She leads the marketing, retail, payments and talent teams, ensuring a seamless experience for members, employees, and the community. Armijo has extensive experience in the marketing profession, having served as the national board chair for the American Marketing Association and holds various local and national roles. She is actively involved in the Austin community by serving on the executive board of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the Austin Area Research Organization, and in leadership positions for organizations like The New Philanthropists and Leadership Austin. Armijo has been recognized as a “Woman of Influence” by the ABJ and holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from UT Austin. She enjoys spending time with her two boys and experimenting with cocktail recipes as an amateur bartender.


Amplify Credit Union

Amplify Credit Union is a member-owned financial cooperative with more than 57,000 members and over $800 million in assets. They have been serving all 50 states and worldwide since 1967, when they got our start as IBM Texas Employees Federal Credit Union. Amplify has five locations across Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park, TX.







Key Topics Covered

  1. Aligning products with diverse member needs
  2. The transition towards fee-free checking and savings
  3. Technological evolution, including open banking


There’s more than one road to leadership in the finance world, and Stacy Armijo — Chief Experience Officer at Amplify Credit Union — has leveraged every leg of her unconventional journey to forge a career she loves.  

With a background in public relations and marketing, she knows first-hand how critical adaptation is for survival and seeks to embrace revolutionary industry shifts in the mortgage lending landscape.

From the importance of aligning products with the needs of diverse customer demographics to the strategic move towards fee-free banking, Armijo explains her view on why a team should never “create something for someone, without someone.”

The importance of aligning products with diverse member needs

Who is doing the creating in banking? Typically, the executive, product, retail, and digital teams — why is that an issue?

“If we look at the demographics of each of those audiences, and we compare that to the demographics of the customers they say they want to serve, there's a huge mismatch between those, and not just in age,” Armijo said.

Having a team that is mostly homogenous in age, gender, education and background can create an echo chamber, solving pain points that ultimately don't exist for members. 

“It's interesting to me because, as customers, if someone who doesn't relate to us in any kind of way says, ‘Here's what you need!’ How do we feel about that as customers? Usually not good, we usually feel not good about that. But as institutions, we somehow believe we're exempt from that,” she continued.

If credit unions are willing to diversify their thinking through different points of view, they are more likely to connect their end users, or members, in meaningful ways that spur long-term relationships.

Embracing the niche and realigning revenue strategies

Serving members is about keeping their best interests at heart. 

“We have to consider who PFI serves,” Armijo said. “Banks want you to have a preferred financial institution, and of course, they want to be that preferred financial institution. The reason banks want that is because, usually, banks are really good at one, maybe two, things — and then the rest they're kind of just okay at.”

It’s common for financial institutions to rely on consumers choosing multiple services from them simply as a means of convenience. But is that truly in service to the consumer if they aren’t getting the best quality across those multiple areas?

“That whole philosophy serves the institution, not the customer,” she continued. “Anytime that you orient yourselves around a strategy that pits your customer's interests against your institution's interest, your customer is going to win, especially in today's tech-enabled environment.”

A la carte offerings are on the rise across multiple industries as people demand choice and flexibility.

If they can’t find the best option at their home financial institution for a specific category, they should be free to shop elsewhere while keeping their relationship with both institutions. 

Armijo calls for financial institutions to hone in on what they excel at and stop spreading the peanut butter so thin. And then, in the spirit of Miracle on 34th Street, maybe even tell consumers where they can find what you don’t have.

Why fee-free banking is a pivotal strategy for standing out

In 2022, Amplify Credit Union decided to go fee-free, and it wasn’t a publicity stunt. 

They started the process by asking a few key questions: 

  • What makes a compelling checking and savings account? An account is an account is an account, but what is truly enticing to a member?
  • How important is security to a consumer? They assume their financial institution has it. It’s not a reason to buy, but it’s a reason to leave. Strong security is a must.
  • How much do consumers value rewards and fees? If the fees outweigh the rewards, you have a problem. 

Taking these findings into account, Amplify’s goal is to create a sustainable, affordable level of funding for their lending operations, and rewards were not the way to do it. They turned their attention to fees.

“Our business model was that our members were already naturally relatively averse to fees. And when I say fees, what I'm talking about are any fees on any deposit product — monthly service fees, overdraft fees, checking account fees, wire transfer fees, etc.,” she continued.

There was talk about leveraging these reduced fees as a selling point for consumers, citing them as a standout feature. 

“It actually is free checking — which our industry has talked about forever — and we're the only ones I've ever found that have it,” she said. “Free checking in our opinion is a checking account that will never cost you any money, no matter what you do with the account. That's a free checking account.”

When their members win, they win. And in the banking world, where it’s common to rely on people being inattentive with their money to profit, that makes all the difference.

“Let's build business models that have a little more courage,” Armijo said. “Let's build business models that speak to our customers and what they want to accomplish.”

Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast.


Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast