By now, you’ve likely heard about the “battle” between the “regular people” of WallStreetBets on reddit and the “industry” of hedge funds. GameStop, a struggling retail store, found themselves in the middle of a crazy event.
Put simply, a bunch of people in that subreddit group noticed that the GameStop stock (among some others) was heavily shorted. Without going into details, it means people were betting on the share price to fall.
And it wasn’t just a little bet; the exposure was massive (over 100% of the shares, which is legal and possible).
So this online community made a plan to take on the Goliath of hedge funds. They would collectively buy up shares of GameStop. This makes bets that it will fall go south. In fact, it means the hedge funds are on the hook for paying the difference.
This is why shorting stocks is an extremely risky strategy that you should only do if you really understand what’s happening.
What they did is called a “short squeeze”, and it put the pressure on the hedge funds to sell out of their shorts. To do so, they end up buying back the shares, making the stock price rise again.
Since shorts are the traditional market in reverse, the “crash” it caused made the price go up. Thus, the crazy begun.
Get the (Stock) Info
Plenty of great sites have entertaining and informative analyses of the whole episode. By the time this is published, they’ll be more, as I’m sure it will change by the minute. So I’m not going to go into any more detail here.
What matters for us in the credit union world is the exposure. People are talking about the stock market. It has memes galore. It’s trending on every social media network. People. Are. Interested. In. Stocks.
So take advantage of this opportunity! Advance your mission of financial literacy and education (and get a bit more member cred) by talking about it.
Help members understand what is happening
Show them how they could do the same (responsibly)
Connect them with your own investment solutions or advisors
Create mini-quizzes to present stock concepts
Let members discover “what kind of investor are you?” through questions
You have your member’s attention. Use it for good.
Let Me Explain
To make it easier, I said most of this in a video. Watch, learn, share, and act!
Yes, that is most definitely a Weeping Angel on my shirt. Don’t Blink.
Did someone say “digital transformation”? Ok, that was everyone shouting it at the same time. Got it. I’m glad we made that transition. It’s all done by now, I presume? You’ve had, what, 4 months? How hard could it be?
“Search your feelings; you know it to be true!” Ok, that was Luke Skywalker. And he was talking about some Force stuff. It’s not important. Fate of the galaxy and all. But not our galaxy, probably.
If addressing your challenges to true digital transformation, right Skywalker was.
We’ll discuss two factors that make your work harder. One is internal. The other, like the truth, is out there.
Your Systems Can Be Better
It’s an important discussion to have with your team, core provider, technology partners, and product support companies. (Disclosure: That’s people like me.)
Case in point: One credit union’s lending person told me about a challenge with data matching. In arriving from two separate sources, they couldn’t compare easily. Their process was laborious and got, at best, 70% accuracy. Ok, but not good enough.
With a seemingly-small update to their core, they were now able to use another piece of data for matching. Now, it was easy, automated, and 100% accurate. I asked what they did to make it happen. “Nothing, just getting our system to let us filter by that variable was all.”
In their case, the credit union did not have to transition their core, change LOS providers, or undergo a multi-year planning phase. They just needed an update. Am I saying your challenges can be overcome that easily? Probably not. But some might.
Your Members Need Guidance
A lot of your members embrace digital solutions. The moment they activated their new phone, your app got installed. Check deposit? Scan and go. Fund management? Easy.
This is what you want to see. Consider adding some nonintrusive and short surveys into the app experience to make sure you’re serving their needs. And never be afraid to glance at what other CUs and banks add to their mobile platforms.
Of course, I’m not suggesting to get into an app arms race. What works for Capital One customers may not be ideal (or feasible) for your credit union. But knowing is essential.
And, of course, building your credit union mission into your app/digital platforms. What’s that mean? Make sure all features encourage responsible saving, a deeper relationship, and educate where able. Above all, make it all easy. Burying options in menus is not the way.
Are Members Using Your Digital Functionality?
Which brings us to ensuring your tech-savvy members know your app’s features. Look at usage metrics. Do all features see activity? I wouldn’t be surprised some members wish you had a certain capability, only to not know where it is (and thus assume it’s not there).
Trust me, as the go-to “tech fix it” person in my social circle (yes, even remotely, it’s still my role), this is way more common than you think. I get this kind of thing all the time:
“If only I could print straight from my phone! Emailing it to myself to open on the computer is such a pain.” “Um, you can print from your phone. Just hit the share icon, then Print.” “What? That’s amazing! How would I ever have found this?”
Yes, I’m a genius. I tapped the button.
That’s not your only member challenge.
Do Members Trust Your Digital?
For some people, there’s a “digital trust gap”. Before even diving in, let me say, I get it. For my own devices and services, I take major steps to ensuring my security and privacy. It’s way more than the average person. So for someone to want to avoid it all to stay safe? Sensible.
What are some of the specific challenges? I’ll share a few I’ve heard:
A paper check is more secure (not to mention convenient and privacy-protecting) than an online bill payment
Mobile (contactless) payments are less secure than using a physical card
Online banking services just gather up your personal information to sell it to others (or get hacked); it’s safer to just stay “offline” to protect against bad actors and corporations
We could fact-check each of these points together, but why? You know much of it isn’t just false, it’s actually more risk in the opposite direction. Yet it’s also clear that providing facts doesn’t change minds; it can cause further “digging in” to incorrect beliefs.
So how can you work with people who fervently believe your digital solutions are a danger? You acknowledge their concerns (because though wrong in conclusion, they are right in principle), then explain how your approach addresses each.
Honesty & Transparency Always
Will you get everyone to jump onboard? Unlikely. But even for those who reluctantly use your online banking or manage to keep paper versions, they’ll recognize your commitment to honesty. And that’s how you build loyalty.
In our time of forced digital acceleration, I’ve seen some successes. Someone I know who aggressively rejected online banking now has to use it. And you know what? He’s fine with it. They managed to address his concerns well enough.
Systems Are Just Part of the Challenge
You’ll read and hear from a lot of people in our industry talking about digital transformation. I’ve been one of them for as long as I can remember. Everyone has good intentions; to shift credit unions into a digital future to remain effective and competitive.
We know your existing systems are a huge part of that challenge. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that, only recommend speaking with the providers for their best guidance. Then, moving forward, work with partners who recognize your current and future needs.
As you aim to grow your membership, wiz-bang tech features are fine, but they must be rooted in achieving your mission. Show how what you provide highlights the “credit union difference”, even in what people thought was a basic banking concept.
What have you done to reach, assist, and empower members during your suddenly-rapid digital transition?
A few days ago, a friend asked me a favor. Since I’m a “financial expert” (Um, really? Oh boy.), she asked me to speak with her friend about credit card options. The other person had a challenging credit history with little financial knowledge at all.
A Facebook Messenger request later, and the chat began. My goal was probably familiar to those of you working with members:
Identify her challenges
Focus on her goals
Educate on her options
Develop a knowledge base she could build upon
Provide tangible actions she could take right now
Going in, she was open to learning, guidance, and had a good grasp of what she didn’t know. Maybe not common, but refreshing.
I should also make clear: This entire conversation occurred over text on my phone only. Consider that as we look to digital solutions for all member engagements.
Since the conversation was for her, why not format the article about it the same way?
Her story is one you will recognize. She made some poor financial decisions in the past (through lack of understanding, financial need, or immaturity). As a result, she had a poor credit score. Even worse, she saw the score as a scarlet letter.
“No shame. No judgement,” was my reassurance. You’re making great decisions now. That’s what matters.
On top of that, a common challenge across society: Family history of financial mismanagement and stress. Bravely, she claimed, “I want to break the cycle and not have to stress about any of [it].”
Beyond the poor credit score, she felt she didn’t know much about financial matters. Not quite true, since she understood the importance of carrying no credit card balance, finding a rewards card, and avoiding fees.
The biggest challenge was her feelings towards what she felt she didn’t know.
First and foremost, her goal was to rebuild her credit. Seeing the current score made her upset. Beyond that, it limits opportunities that may emerge.
Accomplishing the first tied into the second: Get a good credit card. In my mind, there was no question her best bet was with a credit union. Lower rates (if necessary) and more accepting approvals drove the decision. Given where she lives, I had a good idea of where I’d suggest.
You know that just signing up a member with a particular service may not be the best approach. If they don’t understand why it is their best choice, loyalty or trust won’t develop. So it was time to evaluate and discuss options.
The chosen credit union has a few different credit cards, and I gave her the opportunity to review the first two. I honestly don’t know which she would get approved to carry. The important points:
No annual fee (unless you get insane rewards, this is totally unnecessary)
Low interest rate (ongoing, not just some promo period)
Low minimum credit limit (better chance to get approved)
Possibility for rewards (incentive to use the card, helping credit score)
Here’s where I got into “Credit Union Geek” mode. After wondering how to apply, it was time to explain what a credit union really is. Focusing on the member-owned and not-for-profit differences from banks, her response:
“I always wondered what the true difference was. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. Makes sense why people have their accounts there versus the big [banks].”
I still believe people make decisions based on what the institution can offer them; a clean and functional app, competitive financial products, easy support if needed. However, the “credit union difference” can be the “cherry on top” for marketing efforts.
So now she knows what credit unions are, a basic history of the movement, and what that means for her. She’s sold. Now, as Tony Robbins would say, “take immediate action.”
It’s easy to just put stuff off for another time. And then the impetus goes away. We get lazy. Other distractions emerge. To make serious changes in her financial life, she has to do at least one thing right now.
Join Suncoast Credit Union. Yes, my company works with them. It’s a great relationship. Their members also seem to love them. So why not refer?
Use our financial literacy platform. My company offers Learn4Saving freely to financial institutions for their members. If it can help her, perfect!
Connect with Suncoast’s dedicated financial guidance counselors. They have a team trained to help with financial challenges or just answer questions.
Use my “inside connections” and speak to a certain team to get started. Hey, feels special having a dedicated extension to dial when you’re just starting out!
Begin “paying yourself first”. That new savings account is a good place to start.
Build a basic budget. It can be simple, just something that helps you identify where money flows once it’s in your hands. Especially now, too much is unpredictable to bother getting really specific, and what value does that even add?
Deal with my many puns. Somehow, this was well-received. I try not to take “credit” for my skills. And I’ll be “saving” plenty more for another article. You could even say I’m “budgeting” them for later.
I’d say step 7 is definitely the hardest.
What You Don’t Know
What began as a favor turned into a learning experience for me as well. I really hope it made a difference for my new acquaintance. Too many people feel stress and shame when it comes to discussing financial matters.
That’s a stigma we need to address.
It’s easy to look at someone with a low credit score and think, “well, they just don’t save or spend responsibly.” Thankfully, I know so many credit union people who understand and go deeper.
Because if you only help the people in perfect situations, are you really helping?