Credit union mythbusters
Credit unions have “some fantastic positives we can leverage as an industry.”
That’s according to Graeme Trayner, managing director of Glover Park Group, a communications consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., who offered CUs advice on how to help consumers overcome some of the myths surrounding credit unions.
While consumers believe credit unions often have better rates than their competitors, they often feel it’s too difficult to join a credit union.
“They think membership is a complex, cumbersome process,” Trayner said. “Also, there is a perception that membership is difficult to get out of, such as a gym membership.
And while credit unions are seen as warm, friendly and on the side of the consumer, many consumers also think they’re too small.
“Credit unions have an image of being local and trusted, which is good, but when it comes to money people want scale. They actually are reassured by having a big, monolithic bank behind them in a scary world,” he said.
On top of that far too many consumers are unaware of the full slate of products credit unions offer, and are concerned about lack of ATMs and branch locations.
“They worry credit unions are behind on technology,” he said.
According to Trayner, there are steps CUs can take to change that story. The first is clearly getting across the benefits of doing one’s banking at a credit union, he said. In every focus group or survey, the concept that scored the best is credit unions return profits to members via better rates. “People appreciate that credit unions are accountable to members, not to shareholders. They like the idea credit unions put people first.”
A second talking point is ease of use. Today, CUs fall into that “it’s too difficult” box with many consumers, Trayner explained. “We need to let people know joining a credit union is easy, that it is not a closed-off secret society, and that access to money is easy. When people were told about the ATM network, their eyes lit up.”
Protection is the third discussion area, as CUs need to “address the fears of a scary world,” he said. The FDIC is a known brand, so consumers understand their money in a bank is protected. However, NCUA does not have anywhere near the same awareness. “We need to show we have protection of deposits. Also show credit unions are a long-term ally, helping people throughout their lifetimes.
Many CUs hang their hats on how much they give back, but Trayner said, “Community is a crowded territory. Companies and brands of all sizes and types talk about their community work. Credit unions need to talk about their community work, but they also need to be careful so they don’t play into the myth they are only for poor people. They need to strike a chord with Americans’ aspirations. Show that joining a credit union is a savvy thing to do.”