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Credit unions that want to juice membership growth face a limited set of options. If the field of membership is not broad enough, the credit union can petition to change it and serve new groups. Often the field of membership is expansive enough, so the challenge becomes how to bring in members of a group who will complement the credit union and allow it to grow.

A handful of successful credit unions originally incorporated around a demographic niche. Think Polish & Slavic in Brooklyn, N.Y., which grew in just 41 years to U.S. $1.8 billion in assets; or consider Latino Community Credit Union in Durham, N.C., which has attracted 68,000 members in just 17 years. In Quebec, the Desjardins network of local caisses populaires – the original North American credit union system – has become one of our continent’s largest financial institutions on the strength of its close social and cultural ties to the province’s eight million citizens. But what about an existing credit union that wants to seek out and serve a new niche well?

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