Dillon Tardif admits he knew nearly nothing about credit unions before he started working at one a few years ago.
“This industry is one of the world’s best-kept secrets,” says Tardif, 25, marketing manager at $150 million asset Seasons Federal Credit Union in Middletown, Conn., and a 2014 Credit Union Magazine Rock Star.
Many of his colleagues in the movement—as well as his millennial peers—would express similar sentiments. In Tardif’s words, credit union marketers aim to “share that secret with the world.”
Young adults remain a prime target of credit union marketing, and methods to spread the credit union message continue to expand and evolve.
CUNA’s 2015-2016 National Member & Nonmember Survey reveals that 28% of adults ages 18 to 24 belong to a credit union. This is up from 22% two years ago.
Still, the average age of an adult member remains high, at 46.7 years. That’s a bit above the “peak borrower” age span of 25 to 44, but down from last year’s average age of 48.5. Of all members, 34% are in the peak borrowing age range, while 12% are “future borrowers” (ages 18 to 24).
Peak borrowers bottomed out at 30% in 2012, reports Jon Haller, CUNA’s director of corporate and market research. “So it’s good news this figure is nudging upward,” he says.
Attracting more young adult members will translate into healthy loan demand in the years ahead. “That’s one good reason why credit unions must continue the push to draw in more young adults,” Haller says.
Email communication ranks high
Having the right technology can draw members to you—just as using the wrong technology can keep them away. This year’s member survey explores members’ preferences for how they receive information about rates, services, and special promotions from their credit union.
Email surfaces as members’ top choice, with 43% preferring email to all other forms of communication. Direct mail ranks second at 33%. Other communication formats trail considerably.
The survey also examines email versus direct mail preferences among age groups.
“We find members ages 18 to 44 prefer email to direct mail by roughly a 2-to-1 margin,” Haller says. “Those ages 45 to 64 are about equally open to either option. And members age 65-plus prefer direct mail to email by a 2-to-1 margin.”
Technology at the forefront
Upgrading the credit union’s technology overall has been key in reaching out to young adults. Today, 37% of the credit union’s membership is age 35 and younger.
“We launched a new, more high-tech home banking system in 2014,” says Keon Conerly, assistant vice president for research and development. “That also came with Android and iPhone apps. We definitely keep technology in front of young adults.”
Among the offerings are online account openings and loan applications, including e-signature capability. “Members can complete these processes online, start to finish,” Conerly says. “They never have to step into a branch if they don’t want to.”
Why electronic and mobile communication is critical: Among members ages 18 to 30 responding to the CUNA survey, 35% say they go to a branch once in a typical month, and 29% say they never visit.
The next step at University of Illinois Employees, Conerly adds, is to make online applications available via smartphone. Already available in the mobile product/service mix are person-to-person payments and remote deposit capture.
In addition, the credit union is revamping its website to meet members’ preferences in content and navigation. “We’re getting feedback from different age groups about what they want,” Conerly says.
In fact, the credit union regularly surveys members to learn about their needs and desires for products and services. That’s another tool to boost outreach to young adult members.
“One of our biggest successes with that age group,” Conerly says, “is for them to tell us exactly what they want, instead of us making assumptions.”
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