Community Service

Help Members Weather the Crisis

The financial fallout has created a ‘new normal’ for members.

June 21, 2011
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The financial fallout from the economic challenges of the past three years continues to affect credit union members. But credit unions are positioned to help their members climb back financially if leadership is willing to learn more about their members and provide the appropriate products and services.

That’s the word from Heather Thiltgen, vice president of consumer marketing for CUNA Mutual Group during a Discovery breakout session at the America’s Credit Union Conference.

Thiltgen told attendees that knowing their members is key to providing the right tools to help them get back on track. The good news, she says, is that members are “overwhelmingly confident, positive, and self-reliant” based on research CUNA Mutual conducted this year on consumers’ financial needs.

Research shows credit union members are hard-working, middle-aged, and family-oriented, and have annual household incomes averaging between $55,000 to $100,000.

Other member attributes:

  • They do business with credit unions because of trust.
  • They’re modest in their lifestyles;
  • There’s less familiarity/confidence with finances and investing;
  • Family is most important;
  • They need help facing multiple challenges of various life stages;
  • They want to see basic near-term progress;
  • They’re price sensitive, but may spend more for value;
  • They’re busy and will ‘bail’ if the process gets difficult; and
  • They’re sensitive to being over-marketed or sold anything.

“The advantage of trust means members are likely to purchase more products from you in the future,” Thiltgen says. “Credit unions focus on helping their members first. Considering consumers have been burned by mutual fund scandals and the housing bubble, doing business with the right financial institution is important to them, making credit unions uniquely positioned in this regard.”

Thiltgen says credit unions should know their current product penetration and offer a broad set of products to meet members’ needs. Recognizing that members seek value and are crunched for time, products should be simple and affordable. And once in place, products and services should be widely marketed.

“You’re known for your great loan rates; advertise them and make your loans easy to get,” Thiltgen advises. “Make it easy for members to get pre-approved online and even print a check they can take to the dealers. Think about how to eliminate points of inertia in every step of the process.”

Giving members their preferred delivery channels also is important, she adds. This encourages credit unions to “build toward multiple integrated channels by rapidly developing your website, online banking, and e-mail functionality.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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