Martinez: Raise awareness of credit unions

Martinez: Raise awareness of credit unions

'Open Your Eyes' campaign is a game-changer for the industry.

June 11, 2019

Brett Martinez, CEO of $4.5 billion asset Redwood Credit Union in Santa Rosa, Calif., was named CUNA Board chair earlier this year.

He believes credit unions need to do all they can to increase awareness of credit unions and the benefits they bring members.

What are your goals as CUNA Board chair?

Brett Martinez: CUNA is making great strides, and our industry is poised to go to the next level if we all work together and row in the same direction.

CUNA has a strong board and an amazing staff. I feel very lucky to be working with this talented group. So not messing things up is at the top of my list of priorities.

I am also a big believer in the strength of our CUNA/league system, which is one of our biggest assets. Encouraging dual membership from credit unions and working with the leagues to continue to strengthen the CUNA/league relationship is a top priority.

I’m really excited about the Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union® campaign. The research that went into it is incredible, and I think it can be a game-changer for our industry.

I hope all credit unions will embrace and support this campaign to make people aware that credit unions are not only a viable option for their banking but the best option.

Naturally, supporting 360-degree advocacy that eases the regulatory burden, expands and protects credit union powers and opportunities, enhances information security, and preserves the tax status to ensure we can continue to help the people in our communities is always a priority.

Getting all credit unions to support these efforts is key—at GAC and back at home, 365 days a year.

What’s your vision for the CUNA/league system?

Martinez: The three-tiered system is one of our key strengths—it’s what differentiates us. When you take the power of CUNA and the leagues at the federal and state levels and credit unions at the local level—that’s critical to our success.

We need to embrace it and support it.

Legislation and regulation that impact credit unions and our members happen on the local, state, and national level. We need to stay ahead of legislation and regulations that have the potential to negatively impact our members and our ability to serve members’ best interests.

We do this really well. Credit unions play a significant role in advocating on behalf of our members. And that’s also one of the reasons we have one of the strongest, most impactful grassroots advocacy of any industry.

The state and national associations bring different but important value to credit unions and their members, so I plan to continue encouraging credit unions to support both.

We’re absolutely stronger together. When we all row in the same direction, we can accomplish amazing things.

What’s your vision for the credit union industry?

Martinez: One of our biggest challenges is that Americans simply don’t understand credit unions and the benefits we provide. This is one of the reasons I’m so supportive of the Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union® campaign, and I’m proud to say that Redwood Credit Union is all in.

CUNA Awareness Initiative

Learn more about the Awareness Initiative.

I believe the credit union system has a very bright future. If we can just dispel the myths about credit unions, consumers will start to consider us.

Ninety-eight percent of consumers are aware of credit unions, but 72% won’t consider them due to their misperceptions.

Credit unions have the opportunity to send a powerful message. During the Bank Transfer Day movement we saw a notable shift as people became angry with banks. They were unhappy with all the fees, and the fact that banks weren’t looking out for their best interests.

Now, I think we can move the needle even further by getting people to notice the benefits of using a credit union. We want them to make the switch because they recognize we’ve got their back when things don’t go well, and we want them to succeed.

I also believe we can conquer any issue ahead of us if we all work together. The power of our unity and cooperation is unbeatable. But we all need to step up to make that happen.

How can credit unions stay relevant in the financial services industry?

Martinez: A few things:

  • Listen to your members—not only what they say, but what they do. Pay attention to your members’ behaviors. Then make sure you're offering the products and services members want.
  • Realize the member experience is critical, and it’s a differentiator for credit unions. We need to teach our members how to use new technology. Technology should not replace the human interaction but should enhance it. Integrating the two is how we can differentiate.
  • Know that members want simple and convenient with a human touch.
  • Understand people have changed the way they bank, but many still have old-fashioned banking habits.

Show them how they can save time, have more control, and how easy it is to use online, mobile, and ATMs to do the simple stuff. That frees your staff up to help them with the bigger stuff: buying a house, preventing fraud, and saving for the future.

Next week: Martinez discusses his leadership style and the need to help members through good times and bad.