Investing and stock trading isn’t typically at the top of members’ to-do lists, especially young members’ lists. And it’s not a priority for most credit unions either. In fact, according to Hendrix Niemann, managing director of practice and wealth management services for CUNA Brokerage Services Inc., about 1,000 credit unions have the resources to hire a full-time financial adviser, and even more have the option of sharing a financial adviser with another credit union, but less than 1,000 credit unions actually offer an investment services program.
Credit unions that actively assist members with their investments, which include CUNA Brokerage Services’ more than 240 credit union partners, enjoy better relationships with members, a boost in noninterest income and the opportunity to educate young people about how to take control of their financial futures, Niemann said. However, they all must first move past young members’ feelings of apprehension and general lack of knowledge about investing and stock trading.
“The main issue with Gen X and Gen Y is that they are quite skittish about what has happened in our country financially, and they are hesitant to engage in much risk,” Niemann said. “People in their 20s, 30s and 40s have historically not been afraid to take on prudent investment risks in the interest of getting a return. But today, they are more cautious. Combine that with a lack of general financial literacy and the complexity of the products, and they don’t want to do it at all.”
Niemann said credit unions should first make investment products part of their core missions, and follow with strategic marketing of those products. Hosting seminars, partnering with community colleges and bringing in outside experts to assist with their programs are all effective ways to get young members on board, he said.
He added that young members with no investing experience should be encouraged to take baby steps and told why it’s important to start early. He suggests they start out by investing in a conservative mutual fund and build a balanced portfolio of qualified and nonqualified assets so they have the option of withdrawing some of their money before retirement age.
“They need to know that they’re not going get anywhere if they don’t put their excess capital to work,” Niemann said. “Even if they say they don’t make enough money to invest, they can try putting $200 or $250 away every month in a mutual fund. They should start slow, but the whole point is to just start.”
The $1.4 billion, Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Genisys Credit Union recently helped introduce young adults to investing by sponsoring an investment club at a local high school. Members of the investment club at Rochester Adams High School in Rochester Hills, Mich., participated in an online, virtual stock market investing game in fall 2012. And Genisys CU awarded a $50 Visa gift card to the student who developed the largest growing virtual stock portfolio. In addition, the credit union, which offers members a full investment services program that includes retirement, estate, insurance and education funding planning, also gave out gift certificates to club members who attended weekly meetings.
Jackie Buchanan, president/CEO for Genisys CU, said the sponsorship made the credit union realize young adults are interested in investing and gave Genisys the opportunity to fill a need in the educational system for financial management education.
“In the past, our educational system has assumed that students will learn necessary financial skills from their families,” Buchanan said. “However, statistics show that the majority of our nation’s adults lack this knowledge. We feel it’s very important that financial literacy is taught at a young age, and we are happy we can do our part.”
Buchanan said she agrees that young people may be hesitant to get into investing and stock trading because they’re uneducated or have heard about losses their parents and other adults have sustained in the market. But, as high school investment club members learned at meetings, she said investing can reap rewards for young adults as long as they do their homework first.
“We would never advocate that a young person risk any funds they would not be able to lose, and this program has been great in teaching younger people that investing in stocks can have great rewards but also huge risks,” she said. “It teaches them that they need to do their research before they get into any type of trading.”
For someone who is ready to get started with investing–young or otherwise–a credit union is an ideal place to look for help, explained Jennifer Lehn, executive vice president/chief operations officer for the $1.2 billion, Spokane Valley, Wash.-based Numerica Credit Union. Numerica CU, a CUNA Brokerage Services partner, offers a range of investment products and holds financial seminars.
“A lot of people have had negative experiences with the financial market in the past five years, and now, they feel the need to at least sit down with someone to make sure they’re doing everything they can,” Lehn said. “They want to get investment products through a trusted source, not somewhere in the marketplace from someone who doesn’t have their best interests at heart.”
For the credit unions themselves, one benefit of offering investment and stock trading services is the fact it can bring in a key form of noninterest income, Neimann said. “It’s in the member’s best interest to take on a little bit of risk to get some returns, and the credit union will share in that,” he said.
But topping the list of incentives on the credit union’s end is the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with members and hold onto them in the long run, Niemann said.
“The loyalty and stickiness factor is the No. 1, overarching reason to offer these services,” he said. “When members have an investment relationship with a credit union as well as a traditional banking relationship, they will be far less likely to go elsewhere.”