Can the Movement Reach for a Common Vision?

Our common values will continue to be the foundation of our success.

October 01, 2012
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

With International Credit Union Day on Oct. 18 and the International Year of Cooperatives winding down, now’s an opportune time to step back and look at how our credit union movement is doing.

One of the most striking developments has been the astounding growth in credit union membership. Not too long ago, the movement was wringing its hands over a pattern of weak membership growth.

But that was before the consumer revolt that began in late 2011 over excessive bank fees, and the similar frustrations with banks.

Both gave  rise to the viral phenomenon known as Bank Transfer Day. Its one-year anniversary is Nov. 5.

The net effect lit a fire that encouraged legions of frustrated consumers to turn to credit unions, and, in many cases, they took the next step and became members.

The membership numbers are striking, and it’s clear the momentum carried beyond Bank Transfer Day and well into 2012. Indeed, every day really is Bank Transfer Day.

As of year-end June 2012, credit unions added 2.2 million net new members, according to NCUA.

For perspective, consider the 2.2 million gain in new membership is the fastest increase we’ve seen in the past decade. And remember, this is net growth, subtracting closed accounts.

This means the actual number of new memberships is even higher. The 2.2 million in net new membership growth is also 80% higher than the 1.2 million average during the past decade, and nearly four times greater than the 550,000 net new members added in the 12 months ending June 2011.

We saw further evidence in the online traffic at—the consumer website CUNA and the leagues launched in March 2011 to give consumers the basics about credit unions and steer them to credit unions they’re eligible to join.

In the months after its launch, the site received about 2,000 visits a week. In the run-up to Bank Transfer Day, the visits averaged 4,000 a week, spiking just before Bank Transfer Day at 70,000 visits in one day. In 2012 it has averaged between 5,000 and 6,000 visits a week.

People are turning to credit unions for value, great service, and a sense of community—and credit unions continue to deliver.

The latest “trust index” from the highly respected Chicago Booth/Kellogg School this summer recorded a startling drop in the public’s trust of national banks (23% on the trust index). Their reputations were badly bruised from the financial crisis.

But the public’s trust in credit unions rose on the index from 58% to 63%. Those findings are consistent with CUNA’s own polling data that found high favorability ratings for credit unions. And among those who use credit unions as their primary financial institution, virtually all view credit unions favorably.

Clearly, to use credit unions is to love credit unions. It’s heartening to see so many consumers discovering what we’ve been saying all along: Credit unions are the best choice for financial services.

For all those gains, however, I believe the movement has the potential to reach still-greater heights. I would like to see today’s credit union movement strive toward a common vision in which a majority of Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner.

U.S. credit unions crossed several major milestones this past year—exceeding $1 trillion in assets and 95 million members. We’ve come far, but we’re not there yet.

Credit unions still have:

  • About 7% market share of household financial assets versus banks and thrifts;
  • Only 95 million members in a nation of more than 300 million people, meaning most Americans still turn elsewhere for financial services; and
  • Fewer than half of these 95 million members use their credit unions as their primary financial institutions.

NEXT: ‘Plan to Win’

Post a comment to this story


What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

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.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive