Why Credit Unions Are Winning With Millennials

Millennials are a high potential target for banks and credit unions.

According to a report by Mintel on “Echo Boomers and Finance”,  just 56% of 18-24 year olds own any banking product, usually a savings account (41%). But this figure jumps to 70% among those 25-29.

Credit Unions have been making the most of their historic opportunity to attract Millennials.

According to Mintel, several credit unions have launched “Young & Free” sites. These sites feature young spokespeople and include blogs, listings of “free items” or promotions available in the credit union’s local area. They also provide calendars of events, and financial literacy tools on topics thought to be of special relevance to Echo Boomers. These topics include:

  • car buying versus leasing
  • establishing and maintaining good credit scores
  • saving money tips
  • finding an apartment.

It only took a quick Google search to turn up several of these “young and free” initiatives, like this one in Alberta from Servus Credit Union. The site features spokesperson, Myles Peterson, who tweets, blogs and creates videos all focused on what’s happening in Alberta and with the Young and Free account at Servus. The site seems to have done its Gen Y homework: it is up to date, provides useful information and apps in a Millennial-friendly format.

There are other Young and Free efforts in Alabama (Listerhill Credit Union), South Carolina (South Carolina Federal), and Texas (TDECU). While the format is similar, each has its own spokesperson and unique content. There is substance as well. For example, South Carolina Federal offers special deals for 18-25 year olds:

  • fee refunds—the idea is that young people make mistakes with managing their checking accounts and the credit union gives them one free fee refund per quarter in recognition that they are still learning how to manage their accounts
  • online budgeting tools
  • mobile access
  • debit cards
  • no monthly maintenance fees
  • additional dividends on deposits.

Analyst, researcher and Millennial, Dane Coalson on CreditUnion.com provides a “Personal Gen Y Perspective” on which features are most meaningful:

Personal recommendations: “The first place I turn to before I purchase a product or utilize a service would be my friends and family for recommendations. I want feedback directly from someone who can tell me about their personal experience, and I’m not alone.”

Help establishing credit: “Helping us build credit is a great opportunity for credit unions to actually differentiate themselves and provide a service that Gen Y needs!”

A fresh, well-designed web site:If your website looks like it is stuck in the past, this can leave a bad impression.” (Duh!)

Plain English: “Don’t get wrapped up in using what you consider to be the coolest, hippest jargon.  Gen Y does not want to be pandered to, they just want easy access to straightforward, clear information.”

Details matter: “I believe that younger members can be easily swayed by seemingly insignificant details such as the ability to exert some control over how their personal card looks.”

Financial Institutions will never be ‘cool’ – this should not be your goal: “Instead, focus on showing them how you can provide better rates, help them build their credit, and actually are an honest institution that genuinely has their best interests in mind. Like anyone else, younger individuals are simply looking for a safe, efficient, non-problematic institution that they can trust with their money.”

Focus on what could draw Millennials into a financial institution today: “High interest products include direct deposit and bill pay,  good rates on individual product offerings, such as an auto loan, CD, high-interest checking or savings accounts.”

This is great advice for any marketer, not just financial services.

Coalson concludes by emphasizing his belief that there is “a window of opportunity” to attract members as they leave college.  But cautions that “once they start their jobs, set up multiple accounts, and become comfortable, it becomes much harder to entice them to switch.”

Kudo’s to Credit Unions for getting ahead of the curve.