Do You Offer Financial Education for the Right Reasons?

Is your first priority to increase business or to improve members' lives?

October 04, 2010
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When it comes to financial education, what do credit unions really want to accomplish? Do you want to do what's in your members’ best interests—or the credit union’s?

James Hanson
James Hanson is vice president of CUNA's business to consumer publishing department.

The Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) personal finance department recently conducted a nationwide online survey to learn more about credit union attitudes about personal finance and personal finance delivery.

Among other things, we asked respondents to list the top three member behavior goals they hoped to accomplish by providing personal finance information. We gave respondents six choices and asked them to choose their top three.

Here’s the breakdown from the 229 credit unions that responded to this statement: “Indicate your credit union’s top three member behavior goals for providing personal finance information.”

Respondents said they want to:

  • Increase use of multiple services (86%);
  • Increase borrowing (73%);
  • Increase online banking activity (53%);
  • Increase saving (32%);
  • Decrease undesirable activity, such as overdrafts and delinquencies (29%); and
  • Increase member net worth (26%).

Clearly, there’s no right or wrong answer. But isn’t it both interesting and a bit disappointing that reducing undesirable behavior and improving members’ net worth scored the lowest.

At least “increase saving” came in a paltry fourth. (I know, your credit union needs more loans not more savings.)

One could argue that each of the top three scores better serve the credit union than the member. Perhaps that’s not the best way to look at your financial education program.

Is your first priority to increase business or to improve members’ lives?

Next: Why offer financial education?

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