As I continue to digest the epic awesomeness that was the Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium (CUWCS), I’d like to use Maya Bourdeau’s discussion as a springboard to address a larger issue that I’ve seen around the credit union world. During Maya’s fascinating presentation on how credit unions could better market and advertise, she mentioned two things about which I’d like to comment.
First, and I’ll not dwell on this since I mentioned this in my previous post, Maya said that potential members need a compelling reason to do business with us. I couldn’t agree more. That said, I’m going to quickly provide you some reasons we seem to use a whole lot that I don’t find very compelling at all.
- We’re not a big, bad bank. (More on this below)
- We are a not-for-profit community cooperative that reports to its members rather than a board of stockholders. This is an accurate statement, to be sure, but it fails to connect and resonate with someone who hears it. What does it mean for them and their money? It’s far too vague and abstract a statement to have a real impact.
- We offer better service than banks. (More on this below)
Second, Maya delivered the news that outright bank bashing wasn’t the best selling point for us. I wanted to stand and applaud when she said that. You see, here’s the thing. Upon entering the credit union world over a year ago now, I was bombarded from all sides with what sounded like canned credit union propaganda. It was rhetoric of the nature I’d heard in political campaigns as far back as I can remember. And I’ve got to say – and I hope I don’t infuriate too many of you with this statement – a lot of what was said seems to be a bit disingenuous and impossible to verify at best, and downright dishonest at worst. Like these statements, for example:
- Banks are big and bad and don’t care about people (or some variation of this). The problem is that big doesn’t necessarily equate to bad, and I find it hard to believe (read impossible) that banks everywhere are filled with heartless half-humans who want nothing but to swindle hard-working Americans out of their money by charging higher rates, etc. It’s just not the case. I banked with Regions for years before joining the credit union that I work at now, and I can tell you from personal experience that they did an awesome job for my family.
- We offer far superior service than that which you’d encounter at a bank. As I said, I was a Regions guy for a good bit, and I’ve got to tell you, they were kind, courteous, professional, helpful, had good online banking options, dropped fees, knew me by name, etc. In short, I’d still recommend them if asked (though that’s not to say I wouldn’t try to compel them to join the credit union tribe). I’m just not sure it’s fair for us to declare so authoritatively that we in the credit union world, across the board, offer better service to our members than banks do to their customers. I’ve heard that countless times, but it strikes me as entirely too general a statement.
- Banks only care about the stockholders. Come on. Really? Do you think most bank branch personnel give two shekels about the stockholders in their organization? I don’t think so. I think they, like us, just want to do a really great job helping people with their financial needs.
So listen — I think we in the credit union world can be, and ought to be, and indeed very often are, the better option for individuals and families looking at where to bank. I think there are several pretty compelling and specific reasons for that. My challenge for us in the credit union tribe is this: Let’s provide them with those compelling reasons to join us. And let’s leave the outright bank-bashing nonsense behind.