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MADISON, Wis. – While the decisions consumers make in choosing where to obtain checking services are based most often on convenience, followed by low fees and minimum balance requirements, credit unions should not ignore tailoring marketing strategies for cross-generational and ethnic groups. This, according to a recent study by the Filene Research Institute titled Marketing Checking Accounts to Members: A Guide for Credit Unions. Credit union households rank personal relationships, low fees and minimum balances, and having a wide range of services available at one location, as their top criteria while bank customers are more likely to value convenience, according to the study, which is based on data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances. In addition to the Fed’s data, Filene assembled four focus groups last year made up of credit union members and non-credit union users consisting of women and men of different racial backgrounds in the 18 to 49 and 50 and older age ranges. The study examined a number of other variables related to determining where a consumer obtains a checking account, including years with the institution, size of checking balance, education, total financial assets and age. “This research is an important instrument in the marketer’s tool box,” said Bob Hoel, Filene’s executive director. “It demonstrates that perceptions of prices and quality in the marketplace strongly influence consumer buying decisions.” Households with more than 10 years at their institution are much less likely to list fees as important, but are much more likely to demand a wide range of services from the financial institution, the study found. Likewise, for those with more than $5,000 in their checking accounts, having a wide range of services is the most important criterion. Filene also found that those with less than a high school education value convenience more than low fees and young adults (age 18-34) prefer low fees and are less interested in a wide range of services. Young checking account holders are also more influenced by personal relationships in deciding where to obtain checking services, the study revealed. “The decision-making process is also affected by perceptions about membership, community ties, convenience and trust, Hoel said, adding that marketing strategies should be tailored differently to various generational groups. “Someone who’s been in this country for years and has been mainstreamed will have different needs from someone who just arrived here,” Hoel explained. The study also revealed two types of decision-makers when it comes to deciding where consumers will obtain checking services. “Relationship shoppers” perceive products and prices to be similar across institutions and prefer to deal with and acquire most of their products at one bank or credit union. “Product shoppers” shop several financial institutions, comparing prices and product features and are less likely to have a primary financial institution. Authored by Jinkook Lee and William Kelly, the study is available through Filene. -

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