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The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been reporting a gradual increase in average age in the U.S. for several years. As the "Greatest Generation" is gradually leaving us, we are faced with a loss of loyal members for reasons completely beyond our control.

Credit unions must now position themselves to serve the specific segments of the population where there is future demand and need: baby boomers and Generation Y.

On the very visible horizon for baby boomers is retirement and the need for investments and retirement planning. Many CUs already offer investments, but even those who do have not fully penetrated membership in this area.

There is no better way to cement a relationship than by introducing a financial advisor when these pre-retirees and retirees are looking for this service. Give the advisors prime visibility and exposure to the membership. Integrate them fully into your team and the revenue generated from the roll overs and retirement investment vehicles can more than pay for the additional expense of the marketing and promotions. If treated well, these members will become loyal advocates through their ongoing, trusted relationship with their financial advisor. This is an easy effort that can have long-term results.

Why Ask Y
The second segment is Gen Y and they will help determine the success or failure of institutions in the next 10 to 20 years. They are probably the most knowledgeable consumers in history as they grew up with access to information, resources and limitless data. They are resourceful and quick and expect everyone they encounter to be as technologically agile as they are. They are also the next investment class.

This generation has lived in a virtual world since the time they began communicating. Friends are found on Facebook. Diaries are written on blogs and Twitter.

This generation is also not particularly good at planning because they don't need to be. Their smart phones can find a restaurant or theater in an instant and their GPS can guide them on how to get there. As long as the battery is charged, these people are ready for anything at any time.

The generation will not accept the far less-efficient methods of their older counterparts. The 20-somethings of today are used to having a question answered or a need met instantly through their own access to unlimited resources. If credit unions do not want to go the way of the dinosaur, they are going to need to serve this group in the way they prefer to be served.

Many credit unions have implemented Internet banking systems and offer the option for members to handle transactions online. How many credit unions, however, have applied the same philosophy to their investment programs? Some will argue that much of what financial advisors do is best done in person, and that is true.

Little Time & Little Money
But many 20-year-olds, however, are interested in retirement plans or have large sums of money to invest? The answer, of course, is very few. But as a credit union pursuing the "member-first" philosophy we need to reach these members or potential members. We need to find a way to serve their needs and build a relationship for the future. We want young members to become life-long members. We want their experience with the credit union to be exceptional from the first moment so we cement the emotional attachment that they have as they continue on through the cycles of life. If they start as online bill payers and online investors, they become part of the prospecting group for a more fully developed account.

The good news is; serving Gen Y is very cost-effective. Given their interest in speed, efficiency, and ability to conduct business through an online source, it is very easy to give them what they want while also minimizing the impact of the service on the bottom line. If overhead can be reduced and services provided with little expenses, it is a win/win. If financial advisors are not expected to spend time with a 25-year-old with $1,000 to invest, he or she will devote their time to the above-mentioned baby boomers in need of more personal attention and guidance for a full retirement strategy. This is where the bulk of time and resources of the financial advisor and credit union should be spent while using the less expensive online methods for Generation Y; which is what they prefer.

Generation Y Leave?
Once the trust and the relationship are established with the Gen Y market, if excellent service continues, these people will become the next generation of life-long members.

Implementing these two strategies concurrently should provide current revenue along with future growth and long term development that credit unions need to succeed. CUs are well positioned with the structure necessary for success largely already in place. With just a few adjustments, there is no reason to expect anything but success.

Eileen Griffin is EVP-marketing and communications with Veriture Financial, San Diego.

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