Key Takeaways From the America’s CU Conference

The annual conference took place in San Diego last Month.

August 1, 2012

Credit unions should be more than just places for members to store money. Instead, they should build relationships and develop listening tools to determine members’ needs and build trust, says author and social media guru Chris Brogan.

“You’re in the relationship business,” Chris Brogan told attendees during the America’s Credit Union Conference (ACUC) in San Diego. “You’re in the business of facilitating desire, facilitating success, and eventually facilitating a legacy.”

Brogan and others offered many valuable insights during the conference. Following are some key conference takeaways.

Technology enables access

Technology is the key to improving consumers’ access to your credit union, Brogan says. Increasingly, that access will be on mobile devices.

But about 60% of websites aren’t mobile-friendly, “which means 60% of your marketing isn’t reaching mobile devices,” Brogan maintains.

He urges credit unions to make their websites more mobile-friendly and to build apps to improve access. “You don’t have to build the coolest app; just build access.”

Other advice:

Make your website easy to navigate on mobile devices. “Users can’t navigate through 700 buttons.”
Personalize email newsletters, and make them shorter and interesting.
Treat social media interactions as opportunities to acquire and retain members. “We buy from people we like.”

‘You’re not’

Geoff Knapp has a message for credit unions that want to model their online banking systems after high-profile, online retailers: “You’re not”

Knapp, Fiserv’s vice president of digital channels, says credit unions can borrow some ideas and practices from online retailers, but they should keep in mind their different business models.

“People hold financial institutions to a higher standard than retailers,” he says. “I expect Amazon to sling stuff at me, but not my credit union.”

Knapp offers five best practices for online banking and cross-selling:

1. Make it easy for users to find what they want. Ease of use is the primary driver of satisfaction with online banking. “Members don’t want to click eight times to find what they want,” Knapp says.

2. Offer a personalized online experience, such as providing a personalized greeting when members log on or allowing members to edit their profiles and account information. “Just use my name and recognize that I’m there,” Knapp says.

3. Target the message to the right member the right way. Make offers conversational, contextual, and relevant to add value.

4. Position recommendations in a helpful, friendly manner. Online retailers position products for cross-sale without appearing to actually advertise the products—mainly by presenting recommendations.

5. Focus on what you know. Don’t get carried away with opportunities to sell other companies’ products. “Members are open to offers from their credit unions—not so much for discounts to local restaurants,” Knapp says.

“Focus first on who you are and what you do,” he adds. “Members are receptive to offers they perceive to be targeted and relevant. Enable users to conduct their business quickly while delivering a more personal and valuable experience.”

Engage the Hispanic community

The Hispanic population has grown from 14.6 million in 1980 (6.4% of the U.S. population) to 50.4 million in 2010 (16.3% of the U.S. population), fueled not by immigration but by high fertility rates, says Barbara Robles, senior community affairs research liaison for the Federal Reserve Bank.

That’s important because, regardless of future changes to immigration policies, the Hispanic population will continue to grow for generations. And credit unions need to plan accordingly. “Birth rates tell us this will be the new market,” she says.

Many Hispanic households are experiencing a “boomerang” effect, where relatives of all ages live together due to the struggling economy. “We’ve seen the highest growth in multigenerational households since the 1940s,” Robles says. “That opens the window for multigenerational financial services. We need to determine how these households pool their resources and what products to offer these households.”

Despite recent economic difficulties, Hispanics’ buying power grew from $210 billion in 1990 to $1.7 trillion in 2012, Robles reports. That’s an increase from 5% to 11% of the total U.S. consumer market.

Still, many financial institutions are ill-prepared to serve this group, she says. “What’s disturbing about financial institutions is the belief that language is the only piece of the puzzle. You need a cultural competency piece. Financial education is significant, but not the only piece.”

Robles outlined several principles to engage the Hispanic community:

Learn about specific cultures in the community and their needs;
Engage “cultural brokers” to introduce you to community advocates and leaders;
Be flexible with your agenda;
► Ensure that community partnerships are reciprocal; and
Understand that relationship-building takes time—and one negative event can destroy progress.

“Volume is the biggest seller of the need to serve this market,” Robles says. “It’s a large and loyal market.”