Keeping It in the Family Helps the Whole Movement
Significant segments of the population are increasingly dissatisfied and distancing themselves from traditional financial services providers – uh, banks – and that news and noise is all around us. At CU24, we’ve conducted market research with consumers on their perspectives and preferences and the message has been loud and clear. In terms of their banking relationships, people feel like they don’t belong, banks are only out to get their money and they’re just a statistic. Service is out the window and banks view their customers as just a source of fees. That’s not me talking – it’s straight from the mouths of consumers.
The data are evident too. More and more consumers, at nearly every strata of the economy, are opting for alternatives to traditional banks such as prepaid cards and newly emergent consumer and business finance companies.
The good news is that when consumers learn more about credit unions, they are very receptive to the difference. These alienated segments are largely composed of those consumers credit unions are essentially charged to serve – working class Americans and people of modest means. When credit unions pursue this market, rendering services in accordance with traditional and conscientious credit union values and philosophy, they present a responsive, welcoming home for those alienated consumers. There is a substantial market opportunity for credit unions among those who are disaffected from traditional financial services organizations (banks). When credit unions behave like banks, they are buying into the same morass that consumers increasingly reject – especially among our target segments.
Despite an affinity for credit unions among consumers, it is still necessary to provide the range of services and solutions that today’s consumers need in order to conduct their financial lives. Credit unions need to work with technology and service solutions providers that understand their market, understand their needs and can deliver in a way that is consistent with the culture – features, functions, pricing, service, support and commitment. These attributes are found among a whole host of CUSOs that are cast in the same spirit, the same commitment to the cooperative, service-oriented approach as credit unions themselves. When credit unions engage with CUSOs they are expanding their engagement in the credit union community. They have avenues into shared experiences; they play a role in decision-making and policy directions of the company. They will be working with a team that will listen as they articulate the needs of their constituents, and not just the factors that will contribute to maximizing earnings.
This is why CUSOs are different, and why it behooves credit unions to work with CUSOs wherever they can. They get the services they need, in a way they need it, with the attention they deserve – without surprises, gotcha fees and the like. It’s just like the way credit unions serve their members. In a way, CUSOs are to credit unions as credit unions are to their members.
Working with CUSOs, credit unions help strengthen the whole movement. Success builds upon success, and consumers come to recognize where their values are honored and where they truly belong. It's all part of strengthening an interconnected community. And when we strengthen the community, everyone benefits.