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Does the Credit Union Difference Matter to Millennials?
Thursday, December 10, 2015 6:35 AM

The CU Difference and Millennials

A new Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) talks about Millennials, the Credit Union Difference, and membership growth.

By Lacey Adler

According to Credit Union Times, the average age of a credit union member is 47, leaving plenty of room for improvement. Being a Millennial myself, this cord strikes close to home.

One of the questions we had to answer [in DE training] was "Does the credit union difference matter to the younger generation?" To answer this question, we had to first paint a picture of this generation and figure out what this generation values in life and in a financial partner. Here’s what we know about Millennials:

  • They want to belong to an ethical institution that is bigger than themselves, and they want to feel a sense of connection to their community. According to the World Council of Credit Unions, Millennials want to feel like they are a part of something that is inherently good for the community, and they want to work toward improving the world in which they live. They also want to belong to an ethical institution they can trust, that will treat members fairly and justly.
  • They rely heavily on technology. This is not new information. Millennials have a constant need and desire to be connected to others and the world around them through technology. They demand technology in all aspects of their lives because they’ve grown up with it, and it’s the only way they know.
  • Millennials value financial stability. This generation places a high value on their economic status, and they face many obstacles when it comes to finances and debt. With more Millennials attending college and racking up larger amounts of student loan debt, they are struggling to come out on top, which results in having to wait longer to buy a home, make investments, or save for retirement.

These are just some of the most important things that millennials value in their lives. Do these match up with the credit union difference? We’re back to the question of whether Millennials care about the credit union difference.”

The answer is yes, they do care about it; they just don’t know that they care about it. All the values listed above (ethical institution/connection to community, technology, and financial stability) are huge components of what makes credit unions so amazing.

According to the US Census Bureau, more than 80 million Millennials live in the U.S. Of those 80 million, only 44 percent know what a credit union is (Filene Research Institute Study). It’s no wonder they don’t care about the credit union difference.

Millennials don’t know that the Credit Union Operating Principles state that credit unions are not-for-profit; they operate on non-discrimination and open and voluntary membership; and they have members, not customers. They are ethical in that their profits go back to their members in the form of lower rates and other benefits. Also, one of the Cooperative Principles woven into the DNA of credit unions is concern for community. These seem to match up pretty well with Millennials' values, don’t they?

How about technology? Credit unions are designed to focus on their members and striving to meet their demands and needs. This includes technology, which is no longer just an attraction for Millennials, but a necessity. They expect it, and credit unions work diligently to deliver products and services to maximize convenience for their members.

Then there’s financial stability, which is the bread and butter of credit unions. Our operating principles also include building financial stability and providing ongoing financial education. Credit unions care deeply about the financial wellbeing of their members, and they actively promote financial literacy of their members, officers, employees, and the people in their communities. Great rates and low or no fees don’t hurt either.

It seems the values that this generation holds are exactly what makes credit unions different than other financial institutions. These values are at the very heart and soul of the credit union movement; Millennials just don’t know it.

We can’t just tell them that they're a member and that credit unions are not-for-profit. We have to show them. Show them through your credit union's story, through the credit union history, and through our philosophy. Show them stories of members, stories of the work you’ve done in your communities, and the diligent work you do to help educate members.

We have to work together as a credit union movement to make them care about the credit union difference, because it does matter. What are you doing to share the credit union difference?

Check out the Cooperative Principles video from the National Credit Union Foundation!