Create a Gen Y advisory group. To find out what teens and young adults want and need in a financial institution, form a group of them to call on for ideas and feedback-making sure to avoid names like "advisory bored" (misspelling intended). Drawing members from your staff is a good start, but invite nonemployees and nonmembers as well for a broader perspective.
It will take persistence and creativity to reach them, so don't give up too soon. Even scheduling a time to meet may take a few attempts. (Hint: Friday nights and early mornings don't tend to work.) Make gatherings fun by incorporating an event or prizes, and keep the focus informational. No sales pitches
Provide financial education. Gen Y needs and seeks financial education, yet many schools don't offer such courses. The good news is you can educate Gen Y members without reinventing the wheel, by leveraging the efforts of companies that have stepped in to fill the void. For example, brass|Media (www.brassmedia.com) allows you to brand its Gen Y financial magazine with your name and logo and offers copies you can distribute. The iThryv (www.iThryv.com) site enables you to integrate your online banking service, making it accessible to young adults within a community dedicated to financial literacy.
Rethink your marketing strategy. Forget newspaper ads and radio spots. The key to reaching Gen Y is to leverage the places where they already gather; this is one area where your advisory group can offer direction. One credit union set up a branch inside a community youth club where teens socialize. Others have run sports promotions, YouTube video contests, and Starbucks coffee giveaways. Whatever your approach, if you plan to drive Gen Y to your Web site, make it easy to find the services relevant to them. In fact, make it easy to find you online, period.
Do a Google search for the words "bank" and your city, and see if your credit union shows up. Most teens and young adults don't know what a credit union is, so they'll search for "bank" to find a financial institution. To show up on their list, add the "B" word to your Web site text and meta-tags.
Personalize your approach. I know of a college that improved its football recruitment success by playing into Gen Y's need for personalization. Instead of using generic mailers, the school created personalized posters with the recruit's photo and a comic book series starring the recruit as the hero. Extreme? Perhaps. But Gen Y is growing up at a time when you can put your name on M&Ms and your picture on a bottle of Jones soda. It's now very common to offer credit cards with a personalized photo. Offering this service is a great start. But to stand out from the crowd, go beyond that approach by extending the personalization to the product itself-for instance, offering a variety of cards that each carry different interest rates and fees, allowing Gen Y to choose the best fit.
Add lifestyle products. This connected generation wants easy access to financial products and services that suit their lifestyles, so make it a goal to add one of these convenience services in 2009. Mobile banking is becoming a must-have for Gen Y, especially as middle school students now have their own cell phones. Online banking is a given. To make it more compelling, offer access through vehicles where they spend time, including social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Debit and credit cards that offer rewards are highly valued by this group, as long as the rewards are relevant and easy to manage and redeem. Account-to-account transfer is another service that might attract their attention and is a great way for parents to move funds to a child's account while away at college.
Make an emotional connection. Alongside the three-legged stool of price, quality and service, the customer experience is now vital to competing. Many successful companies have taken boring products and brought them to life through a brand that creates an experience, like Starbucks or IKEA. If the experience with your credit union isn't memorable and visual, Gen Y will likely go elsewhere. Since some young adults will only visit you online, make sure your Web site is inviting and modern. Community outreach events are another opportunity to connect emotionally-and a great way to demonstrate the industry's community-focused philosophy, which dovetails with a key Gen Y value.
Create a school credit union. Take a page from the credit unions that have been doing this successfully for years. While the concept began at the high school level, we now know it's even better to reach children in grade school, before they begin part-time jobs that generate savings and discretionary income. A simple laptop and table can serve as your branch, stickers and calendars can remind students of branch hours, and contests with prizes can encourage deposits.
The average age of a credit union member is 47. To thrive in these challenging times and beyond, it's essential to turn back the clock and attract the young members who will form the foundation of tomorrow's credit union movement. Becoming a younger credit union in 2009 is one New Year's resolution you can't afford to ignore.
Quinton Hamel is an offerings development director for Fiserv. He can be reached at 248-640-9692 or email@example.com