In honor of the Credit Union Journal’s 10th anniversary I collected the top 10 reasons I believe the credit union industry has the opportunity to grow and prosper in the coming decade. It turns out that the evolution of credit unions as service oriented financial services providers with strong community ties has positioned credit unions for success in our rapidly changing culture. Of course we need to educate the marketplace on what sets credit unions apart and deliver on our service promises to live up to our potential.
Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Reasons why the Credit Union Brand is positioned for success:
1) Culture of service. Because most credit unions were created to serve a select employee group the industry developed a strong culture of service and commitment to each member, not to an elite level of high income account holders. As our national culture has shifted from the “we” of the WWII generation to the “me” of the generations that followed this is an excellent brand position.
2) ATM Network and Shared Branch service model. The credit union industry model of sharing remote service capabilities through ATM and Shared Branch networks is ideal for the future generations of financial services users who will seldom, if ever, visit a credit union or bank branch. The remote service model links seamlessly into Internet based promotions and services branded for individual credit unions.
3) Niche marketers. The old mass market is dying fast. Today’s multimedia cornucopia of advertising and marketing options combined with database segmentation and lead management makes niche marketing the smart, effective way for credit unions to connect with members and future members. Which is great because few credit unions can afford mass marketing anyway!
4) Membership vs. shareholder. Membership properly defined and marketed can be very meaningful to the young adults who will make up the credit union membership of tomorrow. This is an important advantage that warrants greater education in the marketplace.
5) Member involvement as volunteers and board members. The parity and sharing of membership is good. The opportunity to actually become involved and help run the financial institution is great. As more of today’s young adults settle into careers and start families this opportunity should help attract active and committed board members. The credit union industry must aggressively communicate the major role open to volunteers and board members and we must seek out younger board of director members.
6) Individual relationships with members. The Internet is driving a different kind of relationship between individuals and the companies they buy from. Instead of being nameless, faceless “customers” the Internet allows companies and organizations to communicate with individuals in an intimate, one-on-one way. That is ideal for the credit union industry because we’ve been connecting to our members that way for decades! Now credit unions must translate this into relevant and competitive e-service programs.
7) Internet provides a more level playing field. The Internet allows credit unions to compete more effectively in the financial services industry without dramatically increasing advertising budgets. Internet shoppers can now discover the great rates and products that credit unions offer–which has been one of the best kept secrets of the financial services world. Your home page must lead with your core values and most competitive benefits – and it must be updated often. It is also critical to your credit union’s credibility to keep Web content current and relevant.
8) Growth of minority populations. As our nation’s minority and immigrant populations continue to grow and thrive we are developing ideal geographic pockets and psychographic population pockets that can be served by credit unions who understand their needs and customize products and services for them.
9) Focus on the local community and the global environment. The youth of today share a strong commitment to community and to the environment. The tight community bonds between credit unions and communities that seemed anachronistic just a few years ago are now one of our major competitive weapons for the future.
10) The members of tomorrow will drive change. The credit union industry has been slow to embrace change. While that has worked in the industry’s favor in terms of our unbroken history of commitment to individuals, communities, and the underserved, it can make it tough for us to keep up in the dynamic financial services industry. But the boards of tomorrow will force us to embrace new technologies and new ways to deliver fair and affordable financial services to our memberships.
We are rapidly wrapping up the first decade of the new millennium. This is a challenging time, and an exciting time. By keeping the spirit and commitment that have helped credit unions survive and by adapting our strengths to new technologies and new generations we can grow and prosper.
Paul J Lucas is a national marketing and branding consultant. He can be reached at www.PaulJLucas.com or paul<at>pauljlucas.com. (c) 2007 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com