CUs Are Cool Again. Embrace It.

CUs are in the right place at the right time for this ‘conscious’ age.

August 1, 2013
Some credit unions might not want to hear this, but being cool matters in today’s financial services world. While giving members the best financial experience at the best price will always be job No. 1 for credit unions, the cool factor has permeated our world and credit unions need to be there.
I’ve heard for years about the need for credit unions to “get younger.” We know that credit union members’ average age is pushing 48. And it’s true that credit unions must attract younger members to ensure future loan growth. But in addition to getting younger, it might be even more important for credit unions to get “cooler.” And if they do, consumers of all ages will notice.
The good news here is that credit unions are already cool; they just have to embrace it.
We’re living in a “conscious” age. Consumers are environmentally conscious, health conscious, and financially conscious. This consciousness extends beyond young people—it spans all generations. As people go green, get lean, and live financially responsible lives, credit unions are in the right place at the right time.
As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions exist solely for their members’ lending, saving, and financial-management needs. With no shareholders demanding high profits, credit unions offer a refreshing new business model. And guess what? A lot of people find that very cool.
If credit unions tell their story well, people will see them not as the stodgy financial institutions of the past, but as the financial institutions of the future.
Fortunately, credit unions have a lot of inexpensive ways to tell their stories today. Social media can create a lot of buzz, but it’s more than buzz—it’s a powerful tool.
I was serving on the Credit Union Times team when online publishing was just starting to take off . Back then, some questioned whether it would be duplicative of our print efforts and if people would turn in their print editions for bits and bytes. We now know the answer to that question. Can you imagine it was even a question back then ?
Social media is an impressive channel for delivering news while weaving in marketing messages. Credit unions have to be there. But it’s not just that. It’s on-the ground community messaging. It’s messaging at local chambers of commerce and with peers from other industries.
CUNA is also looking for more ways to interact and to engage its audience. At CUNA’s recent America’s Credit Union Conference in New York City, we amassed a “storm” of credit union supporters at the window of NBC’s ‘Today Show” in the early morning hours to get our message out on national television. It wasn’t conventional, but it was engaging and effective.
It has never been more important for us to hear your compelling stories of how you serve your members. We want credit unions to be cool and appeal to the new consumer consciousness.
CUNA launched its internal, credit union system rallying campaign— Unite for Good—earlier this year to help bring credit unions together for their mutual benefit. The ultimate Unite for Good vision is that “Americans Choose Credit Unions as Their Best Financial Partner.”
Three targets have been set to achieve that vision:
1. Removing barriers;
2. Creating awareness; and
3. Fostering service excellence.
All these initiatives can help create a better future for credit unions.
We recently unveiled a new tool on the Unite for Good website that lets you create a profile for your credit union and tell your story. You can help your fellow credit unions by sharing your story. They might be able to pick up tools or tactics they can use to better serve their members. You’re also helping CUNA compile the ultimate credit union story to use in its lobbying eff orts and to strategically allocate its own resources.
Visit and click on the “Share Stories” tab to create your credit union’s profile and to start telling your own “cool” story.
PAUL GENTILE is CUNA’s executive vice president of strategic communications and engagement. Contact him at 202-508-6793.