Credit unions have a unique opportunity today to attract new members—and most important, new young members—because they're values-based financial services providers, CUNA Executive Vice President of Strategic Communications and Engagement Paul Gentile told an audience of community credit union representatives Wednesday,
“There’s all this bad news circulating—the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, all the other things you’re reading about,” Gentile said at the CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference in Uncasville, Conn.
“But credit unions are a bright spot in the country. More people want to do business with businesses that do good. They want to buy ‘green’ and shop local,” he said. Credit unions must recognize this environment as an opportunity to show they're the “good guys,” the values-based financial services providers of the marketplace, Gentile encouraged.
“Big banks are our biggest promoters by doing bad things—like adopting anticonsumer policies, getting government bailouts,” but it's up to credit unions alone, to seize the opportunities, he said.
Gentile said it helps both membership growth and credit union political advocacy efforts when credit unions get out and tell their stories. He said the stories should show the shared cooperative values of:
- Being member-owned;
- Being collaborative—credit unions help each other;
- Being member-centric—it’s all about what is good for the member; and
- Being dedicated to consumers’ financial well-being.
Gentile urged his credit union audience to share their stories within their communities, with their lawmakers, and with CUNA’s Unite for Good website. At the 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference last March, CUNA and the state credit union leagues launched the Unite for Good campaign toward the strategic vision where "Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner."
He said that while getting the good stories out will enhance the credit union reputation, meeting the Unite for Good goal of becoming the primary financial institution of 55 million Americans by 2023, up from the current 45.3 million, will also require finely tuned financial services.
He said to meet the Unite for Good goal of “fostering service excellence,” credit unions must identify what their members most want. And for the 80 million young people that comprise Generation Y that means, in part, moving toward phone-based access to mobile banking systems.