You can’t open up a trade publication or attend a credit union conference these days without hearing about Gen Y. These are the members who need loans and are key to our credit unions' survival. How can credit unions start reaching out to this generation, and where can they start?
First, learn how they think. The same tactics and language that has worked over the years is outmoded. If you feel so removed from Gen Y you don’t know where to start, create an advisory group of young adults to inform you. Ask them questions. Learn their motivations and behaviors. Credit unions can play the part of service provider and mentor. You’ll create savvier, more grateful future members.
Young adults crave instant access to information and the ability to share and compare experiences with friends. For many of them Google, Amazon, and Wikipedia have always been there. This is great if your products are relevant and differentiated. The opportunities for young adults to share and promote a product they like are limitless. But that will only happen if there’s a compelling reason to share. And at the same time, that same access to information and recommendations make for a very mobile group of consumers that are likely to switch providers quickly if they’re not satisfied. Technology is a double-edged sword: a big help to your business if you’re keeping up with it and a deal breaker if you aren’t.
Young adults experience many firsts–first cars, first job, first year of college and first home to name a few. These firsts create several unique needs credit unions are well-positioned to fill. Many young adults need clear and meaningful advice and guidance just as much as they need that first loan. The youngest of them will have no credit whatsoever, so using a smart mix of products and education to help them build credit and knowledge is a tremendous opportunity for credit unions.
The path to young adult and teen members starts with their parents. Build relationships with high school students before they head off for college through a low-limit first credit card product, student branching, or reality fairs. By establishing these relationships early on, your credit union well be well-positioned to offer loans to younger members, and those members will be well-positioned to make smart financial decisions.
Molly Whitfield is a member service representative/loan officer at Consumers Credit Union, Kalamazoo, Mich.
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The Crash Network is a grassroots organization of more than 100 young credit union professionals. Its activities include meetings, mentorships online collaboration and development projects. Opinions expressed are the personal views of the author.