Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007, 08:00 PM UPDATED 11:59 AMBy Nick Zulovich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — While military personnel tend to be transient and can be deployed at a moment's notice, Mary Ann Mays, marketing communications manager for Fort Knox National Co., said that doesn't mean they are high-risk customers for lenders.
In fact, she indicated military members can be less risky than other segments of the population. How? Quite simple, she responded, take advantage of their ability to allot payments.
"Before you dismiss this market as too small and carrying too much risk, consider this: There are more than 30 million Americans with military affinity," Mays pointed out. "These are consumers with enough buying power to command attention from any size company.
"This is a larger buying group than several of the age and ethnic markets that dominate the media right now. But don't assume this group is homogenous in any way. Learning how to creatively finance this market is just as important as developing strategies to peak buying interests," she continued.
Military Assistance Co., one of the world's largest processors of payments for the U.S. military and civil service workers, processes more than 2 million transactions each year, moving more than $2 billion directly from military members' paychecks to receivable accounts of business, such as lenders, Mays explained.
"Allotments are not new. They are not complex or expensive or time-consuming," she reported. "The process is simple. A service member assigns a portion of his or her military compensation to pay bills to a business like yours, twice a month, for products and services just like the ones you offer.
"These are dependable, uninterrupted payments to you, regardless of where the service member is deployed," Mays added. "Even better, allotments are paid directly from the Department of Defense's pay system and are distributed monthly before other types of payments are made, putting you at the top of the priority list for payment.."
Referring to several recent studies, she said that although military members' lives tend to be continuously impacted by uncertainty and sudden relocations, this population still wants the same products and services that many civilians desire.
"The majority of allotment users are young, either single and in need of continuing to establish a good credit history, or married with a family and trying to ease the responsibilities of their spouse who is not deployed," Mays explained.
"These service members want the peace of mind that a quality of life is being maintained for themselves and their families while they are performing their important duties," she said. "This is where the similarities in this market end. The only other commonality may be that they have an essential and difficult job to do and their minds shouldn't have to be on paying the bills back home."
So, in steps the Military Assistance Co., otherwise known as MAC. This company provides innovative software solutions and online services to assist customers 24 hours a day, according to Mays. Moreover, online account access and easy-to-understand online allotment forms can make applying and accessing allotment accounts simple, she noted.
Another benefit to lenders is that via MAC, financial institutions receive updated information for military customers that can be viewed monthly for payment information, and can also track business volume via e-mail as online applications are turned in.
"They (military personnel) can be deployed at a moment's notice or relocated to another continent or hemisphere without warning. And you hate to ask, ‘How am I going to get paid under those kinds of circumstances?' You want to show your gratitude and do your part, but as business people, can you afford to do business with them?" Mays asked, understanding lenders concerns.
"You certainly know lending to unreliable customers is not good business, and the last thing you want is to be forced into collecting from someone who is working to defend your country," she highlighted. "It is not only an uncomfortable thought, but possibly an ugly media blip or black eye for your business. Besides, people in the military aren't making much in the way of compensation, are they? How profitable could the market really be?"
It can, in fact, be very profitable, Mays pointed out.
"Allotments provide lenders the assurance of on-time payments and peace of mind to our service men and women wherever they may be keeping the peace. With MAC allotments, lenders can be comfortable in offering a good value to this challenging but lucrative market without the risk," she concluded.
For more information on Military Assistance Co., visit .