Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: financial education

Your Mission Demands It

Originally published on

Why does your credit union exist?

Go ahead and think about it for a moment. I’ll wait.

Is it to provide safe storage and management of your members’ money? To help those in troubled financial situations? Maybe it’s to create a community of similarly-employed citizens.

Whatever your reason, it should matter. If your purpose for existence is just another version of Wells Fargo’s mission, then why even bother? (For reference, this is their vision statement: We want to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.)

So what makes your credit union different? This seems to get lost in the day-to-day of marketing pushes, car sales, core conversions, and more. It’s a question only you can answer.

Here’s an idea:
We exist to provide top-of-class financial services, education, while offering a unified voice in support of our members’ best interests. 

You probably aim to achieve the first two parts today. Ask yourself: How are your financial services? Would you bank there? Even better, would you encourage friends and family to do so? (Then why aren’t you referring them?!) Financial education is crucial to every member, yet few have the knowledge needed to maximize their savings potential. I’m sure you do what you can to help educate them, right?

And then there’s the last part: “Offering a unified voice in support of our members’ best interests”. This is where it gets fun.

Ask a credit union or industry trade group to support the tax exemption and you get cheers all around. They’ll “hike the hill” 5000 strong to demand “common-sense regulation” that reduces the time and financial burdens on credit unions large and small (but primarily the latter). If you are fighting for survival, then you’re automatically fighting for your members, right?

Not. Even. Close.

I support the tax exemption for credit unions. I also agree treating the vast majority legislatively the same as a national bank is unnecessary. Theresa in compliance cannot possibly provide the same level of, well, anything, that the 200-person team at Bank of America can (and should) offer. Of course, we’re getting sidetracked. I said, “members’ best interests”, not credit unions’. And it’s where we are doing a disservice to 1/3 of Americans.

The next few posts will dive into, issue by issue, areas where credit unions have a responsibility to speak out in support of their members. You’ve already seen my take on Net Neutrality (and my interview in CUtoday; many thanks to them for the focus!). Next up: The allure of Free. Then payday lending. And taxes. With a dash of de-regulation for extra flavor. Because what you don’t have to do can still hurt your members.

Credit unions and their lobbyists love to talk about how they are representing a large portion of America. It’s about time they use their voice to improve peoples’ lives.

“I Want To Do It Myself!”

Update 8/23/16: NCUF recently held a #foundationchat on Twitter about member financial education. Though this was written prior to that discussion, many of the points are shared.

Very short background: My family has a vacation property we rent to guests during their travels. The audio/video components (TV, stereo, DVD, etc.) have detailed instructions for use. Of course, there’s always someone who thinks they know better, and rewires the system to their whims. Shockingly, it then doesn’t work right. Puzzled and embarrassed, they leave it and future guests complain the directions are wrong. Cue regular phone conversations troubleshooting and working around these modifications until I can get back to fix the “updates”.

Stereo systems aren’t the only thing people know better. Financial services, too. Members need your help, but, like most people, want to feel they are doing things themselves. How can you empower them while educating and guiding towards your services?

Think back to learning to ride a bicycle. Did your parents send you off the nearest black diamond cliff with nary a wave? If so, we need to talk, because you have stories to tell.

Typically, there’s a training period…with training wheels to protect against falls. That’s your financial education program. It’s a foolproof service for those who need careful guidance. But some people know how to ride a bicycle; they’re just not too confident. If you were wobbly, and I suggested putting the training wheels back on, how would you respond? Exactly.

Create a tiered education/action program for them as well. It’s no longer about rolling up and down the driveway; these members are riding down the easy trails (ie. taking first steps to managing their funds)! The steps taken now are their own, with suggestions by your team. If your member tips their bike, the credit union is equipped to catch and help get them pedaling again. Each consultation enables the member to go further on their own, with confidence and competency.

Every day I read about how credit unions are the leaders in financial education, that they can serve the role sorely needed in our society. The NCUF promotes it on their home page through grants, youth programs, and more. CU Social Good asks credit unions nationwide to share their stories. It’s all about the strategy! Just as you wouldn’t learn to ride a bike by reading a manual, so to it is with finances; action is what excites.

How are you empowering your members to use the financial stereo system efficiently?

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Credit Unions, Spelled “C-o-m-m-u-n-i-t-y”

If you’re reading this, the concept of a credit union supporting their members is unsurprising. It’s what they do, right? By pooling their finances, it enables more competitive rates on lending, lower fees on checking, and a more personal experience. That’s the basis of a savings cooperative, or credit union. And we’re done. Well, this was a nice and short post. I’ll see you next week!

Hold on for just a moment.

Sure, credit unions support the obvious services, but did you know there is an entire world behind the veneer? Organizations supporting credit unions in their own efforts. These are their stories.  (Imagine the Law and Order “bum bum” in there!)

Much of this post derives from my time at the CUNA GAC or follow-on conversations with people I met. Never know what you’ll learn when surrounded by 5,000 credit union staff, vendors, and evangelists!

Tale 1: Ending the Student Loan/Debt Cycle

Too many young people know this story: get accepted to an awesome college, scrounge for all the possible scholarships, and still have $10,000 a year to cover. Enter student loans. They’re a necessary evil for millions of young learners, and can become a noose throughout their early professional years.

How can credit unions help? Say hello to CU Student Choice, an organization working with many CUs to change the picture. By enabling private lending for student loans, they can offer lower rates and more attractive repayment strategies, while maintaining the grade and enrollment requirements seen in Federal programs. Oh, and you’re creating a credit union member early on…can we say for life? I had the privilege of learning from their team in person, and you should have seen them when I finally “got it”.  Their excitement and passion was palpable.

Learn more at CU Student Choice.

Tale 2: Financial Education…no, really

CUNA is more than a lobbying and governing group for the credit union industry. They also support a cause-based non-profit called National Credit Union Foundation, known in the industry as the Foundation. I recently had the privilege to speak with their Director of Communications Christopher Morris. Their mission is to give credit unions tools to help their members become financially free. How? Ask a school-aged child if they’ve seen BizKids. Chances are they have. Produced with $14 million in support from The Foundation and 300 credit unions, it’s an Emmy-award winning series teaching financial education in a fun and engaging way. Let’s be honest. Kids don’t learn much about finances, and when they do, it’s from credit card companies sending pre-approval notices when they turn 18. Not the first lesson I had in mind.

BizKids is watched by millions of students in schools across the country. And it’s only one of the Foundation’s programs. They also award charitable grants to credit unions. A recent fundraiser encouraged pledges from CU staff to participate in a Jeans Day to launch National Financial Literacy Month. While financial results have not yet arrived, hundreds of credit unions particated and many jeans were worn!

“Credit unions have existed for over 100 years to help people others would or could not,” Morris explained. The Foundation can and does. Three times a year, they invite 42 credit union staff (international included!) for a week-long development training. Participants come out with more than a newfound appreciation for shared history; they acquire strategies to refocus their own credit union’s initiatives to better serve their members.

To learn more about National Credit Union Foundation, how your credit union can apply for grants, and apply for the Development Training, visit them today.

Tales to continue…with respect to your time. A future post will highlight more of what makes the entire credit union industry unique. Did you know they partner with other cooperatives? Spoilers!

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