TAMPA, Fla. (8/20/14)--Stressed by economic doldrums and callous bank policies, young adults may be finding safe harbor in credit union membership, according to an Aug. 18 report by WOFL-TV, in Tampa Bay, Fla.
Chris Chmura, FOX 13 consumer reporter, recently interviewed Suncoast CU's Gary Vien, who Chmura called a "foot soldier" in the financial revolution.
"I think millennials choose credit unions because they connect to it, because they connect with the mission," said Vien, who is chief administrative officer at the $5.7 billion-asset Tampa, Fla., credit union. "We save people money."
As the credit union movement celebrates the milestone of 100 million memberships, its not-for-profit cooperative structure and better rates are attracting members like Larissa Dias-Lizarraga.
"Immediately, I felt the difference," said Dias-Lizarraga, a teacher who spent 10 years with a traditional bank paying fees for account maintenance and statements. "They were just trying to take my money, and that's not OK," she told Chmura.
"Our generation and credit unions share a lot of values," the 33-year-old added.
Though the movement has reached that membership milestone, it still is far behind the banking industry, with only 6% of U.S. deposits found in credit unions and one location for every 14 bank branches.
Chmura noted that this generation of financially and philosophically savvy adults will ask more of their financial institutions, which means, Vien said, banks will have to pick up their game.
In New York, the member-friendly missions of First Source FCU, New Hartford, N.Y., with $388 million in assets, and AmeriCU CU, Rome, with $1.2 billion in assets, also appear to have bolstered membership growth to the 100 million mark.
As a 28-year-old, Joe Leonard ditched his bank and joined First Source FCU. Now, at 43, he boasts of the "great personal service and one-on-one time" he gets from his credit union, his exclusive financial institution (Utica Observer-Dispatch Aug. 16). "I tell people all the time how much better it is."
New York credit unions have notched a 5 million membership milestone as well this year (News Now Aug. 13).
Judith Cowden, vice president of member relations and marketing, $1.2 billion-asset AmeriCU, Rome, credited recent success to the dissatisfaction with bank mergers and fees combined with the credit union's low loan rates and lack of fees.
"The bigger commercial banks have pulled out of this area and don't seem to be interested in us," Cowden told the Observer-Dispatch. "And the practices that have been put in place by those that remain have really alienated the average consumer. No one wants to have to pay so much to access their own money."