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GTE makes each step count with 'Get Fit' fin. ed.
TAMPA, Fla. (4/4/14)--A Florida-based credit union recently launched a pilot program that has its members moving their feet. The idea behind it is simple: The healthier the member, the healthier his or her finances.

Called "Get Fit," GTE Financial, Tampa, $1.6 billion in assets, encourages members to track their steps daily using a smartphone app and then redeem their totals for rewards, such as special coupons to local businesses or cash.

"In January and February, our members logged 78.7 million steps, or about 39,350 miles," said Joe Brancucci, GTE Financial CEO (In the News March 31). "We're also trying to attract a younger set of members with this. So far, they think it's the coolest thing since sliced bread."  

The program, based on a project researchers have dubbed Jumiya--or "union" in Swahili--was originally conceived by the California-based Singularity University and tested in credit unions across the U.S. and Canada. Six California-based credit unions, along with 41 others nationwide, funded the study, and Filene Research Institute managed the overall project.

Results showed that when individuals are healthier, they're less likely to slide into delinquency, default or bankruptcy.

Specifically, Jumiya revealed that healthy behavior leads to good financial outcomes; non-healthy behavior leads to poor financial outcomes. It found 62% of individual bankruptcies are linked to medical debts, and that the team in charge of the project could predict consumer financial health based on medical health data with 80% certainty.

"This could be attractive for a number of credit unions, but it would probably have to fit within a credit union's overall alignment and strategy," said Nader Moghaddam, CEO of Financial Partners CU, Downey, Calif., with $859 million in assets. "At our credit union, we're certainly exploring possible implementation."

While the pilot program is scheduled to end in September, without any guarantees of permanent adoption, Brancucci says, either way, this type of effort makes the Tampa-based credit union a better one.  

"In the long run, our goal is to continue to promote and facilitate the impact of financial and physical fitness on individuals," he said.
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