What makes millennials tick? What do they value? How do credit unions get members of this generation in their doors and keep them happy?
I’d like to think I’m in a good position to provide some insight. After all, at age 30, I’m a millennial and a credit union executive. In many ways, I’ve grown up with my credit union after starting out as a marketing intern while putting myself through college. I worked two jobs back then; the other was tending bar. Today, I’m the head of my CU’s marketing department and an active volunteer in my community. And I own a car, a house and let’s just say several pairs of Warby Parker glasses.
I also have some ideas for how CUs can win over my generation.
Bring on the tech
Technology is key, and credit unions must pay particular attention to their mobile technology, which means having a user-friendly app and easy online bill pay. It also means (eventually, the sooner the better) being able to offer peer-to-peer payment services like PayPal, Venmo and Zelle. It would be great — and mutually beneficial — if CUs could partner to make that happen. Tech inside CUs is also important, because millennials still value the branch experience. In fact, my credit union, BluCurrent in Springfield, Mo., did a survey that showed people of all ages still value being able to walk into a branch. CUs should consider consistency and efficiency of service via video web chats with member service reps. Bottom line: Millennials hate inefficiency and missed opportunities to use tech to make life easier. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.
Millennials are nomadic, many leaving great jobs to travel the world or taking off on a last-minute weekend trip. They thrive on experiences, not possessions, and they need access to their funds anywhere, at any time. It's important that CUs make millennials understand how they can access their accounts with ease, including using shared branching and mobile banking. Again, credit unions should figure out how they can better partner to improve accessibility for all members.
Millennials are big on community, and credit unions should hammer the message that they’re local and community-based. Local events are good idea. For example, last year BluCurrent threw a block party with live music, bounce houses and food from local businesses as a way to meet residents in an underserved part of the community. It was a big hit. Credit unions should also give back to the community in large and small ways — from a “day of caring” and financial literacy events for school children and college students to random acts of kindness, such as paying for everyone's coffee and donuts for a couple hours one morning at a local establishment.
Embrace being a ‘bank’
Many CUs shy away from likening themselves to banks in any way. This isn’t a winning strategy when you consider that over the past 25 years, credit unions have barely gained any market share versus banks. In 1992, CUs had 5.6 percent of the consumer financial services market; today it’s 7.1 percent, according to Credit Union National Association. BluCurrent doesn’t shy away from the word “bank.” We intentionally urge people to "Bank with BluCurrent." It's the language our customers know. (And yes, sometimes it's okay to call members customers, too!) Credit unions today are more like community banks than stodgy CUs of the past, so they should sound more like community banks, too – remember, after all, that community is important to this demographic.
Treat your staff well
How you treat those who work for your credit union is a reflection on your culture — or lack of it. Corporate social responsibility is different now, and to many millennials, a big part of it means taking care of your people. For example, one day when roads were turning icy, BluCurrent announced on its Facebook page that it was closing branches early. Lots of people posted comments like "Thank you for taking care of your people.” This is a big thing – bigger than just credit unions. Remember how consumers pushed back as Black Friday sales crept more and more into Thanksgiving day? Retailers heard them, and many retailers last year stayed closed for longer so employees could be with friends and family during Thanksgiving.
Technology, accessibility, community, identity and culture. CUs should listen to and learn from millennials. I’ll give you another reason: It’s called Generation Z.