Help Members Weather the Crisis

The financial fallout has created a ‘new normal’ for members.

June 21, 2011

The financial fallout from the economic challenges of the past three years continues to affect credit union members. But credit unions are positioned to help their members climb back financially if leadership is willing to learn more about their members and provide the appropriate products and services.

That’s the word from Heather Thiltgen, vice president of consumer marketing for CUNA Mutual Group during a Discovery breakout session at the America’s Credit Union Conference.

Thiltgen told attendees that knowing their members is key to providing the right tools to help them get back on track. The good news, she says, is that members are “overwhelmingly confident, positive, and self-reliant” based on research CUNA Mutual conducted this year on consumers’ financial needs.

Research shows credit union members are hard-working, middle-aged, and family-oriented, and have annual household incomes averaging between $55,000 to $100,000.

Other member attributes:

  • They do business with credit unions because of trust.
  • They’re modest in their lifestyles;
  • There’s less familiarity/confidence with finances and investing;
  • Family is most important;
  • They need help facing multiple challenges of various life stages;
  • They want to see basic near-term progress;
  • They’re price sensitive, but may spend more for value;
  • They’re busy and will ‘bail’ if the process gets difficult; and
  • They’re sensitive to being over-marketed or sold anything.

“The advantage of trust means members are likely to purchase more products from you in the future,” Thiltgen says. “Credit unions focus on helping their members first. Considering consumers have been burned by mutual fund scandals and the housing bubble, doing business with the right financial institution is important to them, making credit unions uniquely positioned in this regard.”

Thiltgen says credit unions should know their current product penetration and offer a broad set of products to meet members’ needs. Recognizing that members seek value and are crunched for time, products should be simple and affordable. And once in place, products and services should be widely marketed.

“You’re known for your great loan rates; advertise them and make your loans easy to get,” Thiltgen advises. “Make it easy for members to get pre-approved online and even print a check they can take to the dealers. Think about how to eliminate points of inertia in every step of the process.”

Giving members their preferred delivery channels also is important, she adds. This encourages credit unions to “build toward multiple integrated channels by rapidly developing your website, online banking, and e-mail functionality.”