Marketing Hurdles Drive Deposit Superiority
Credit unions offer better consumer value when it comes to rates and features on checking and savings accounts. But the strategy has more to do with a lack of marketing acumen than it does commitment to member service, according to officials at WalletHub.com, the online consumer financial website.
WalletHub’s Q2 2014 Banking Landscape Report, released July 11, tracked the second quarter costs and features of 2,000 checking, savings, money market and certificate accounts offered by national and community banks and credit unions.
In all cases, credit unions easily beat their banking competition in all areas.
But credit unions’ member service commitments played less of a role than the marketing issues the institutions face in driving those rates and features, according to Odysseas Papadimitriou, a former Capital One senior director and CEO of both WalletHub.com and CardHub.com.
“Credit unions have a hard time attracting customers because it’s so complex to figure out what credit unions consumers qualify for,” Papadimitriou said. “Credit unions have to compensate for the lack of marketing agility by having better terms. Banks don’t have to do that.”
The WalletHub data indicated that credit unions were 72% cheaper than national banks, offered 105% more features and provided 562% higher interest rates on deposit accounts. When it came to smaller, community-based banks, credit unions were still 48% cheaper, offered 46% more features and provided 699% higher interest rates.
“Banks are profit-maximizing institutions, no question about it,” Papadimitriou said. “Credit unions have better products and the only reason banks get away with charging more is because credit unions have a marketing challenge.”
With the promise of rising rates, Papadimitriou stressed that both consumers and financial institutions should be aware of marketplace changes that will affect relationships between institutions and their depositors looking for greater return on their dollars. Rapidly evolving financial technology also will mean a sea change in the way consumers conduct their financial business, something that has already put many credit unions behind the eight ball in their marketing efforts, Papadimitriou said.
“We created an online marketing tool at WalletHub like the big banks use and offered it free of charge to credit unions with no strings attached,” Papadimitriou said. “We’ve gotten some inquiries, but so far no takers.”
The WalletHub tool is an online app that would allow credit union members to rate credit union services. By literally pasting a few lines of copy from http://wallethub.com/widgets/reviews/ onto the credit union’s web page, the institution can have a significant marketing boost through an increasingly familiar consumer-support advantage, according to Matei Nicolae, WalletHub’s product manager.
“Our goal at WalletHub is to level the playing field within the industry by giving credit unions free access to the same tools that mega-banks use,” Nicolae said. “It's proven that when leveraged correctly, user reviews can increase conversion rates by 20% to 50%.”
Citing data indicating that 72% of consumers place a high value in positive consumer reviews, WalletHub officials said they remain puzzled by the fact that, after reaching out to hundreds of credit unions in the six months since that app was introduced, none have taken them up on their free offer.
“I myself have emailed credit union CEOs with the offer, but they say, no, that they are not interested at this time,” Papadimitriou says. “I think there is some issue with a lack in marketing sophistication going on here.”