Credit Unions Can Leverage Natural Strengths to Attract Millennials, Study Shows

Whether you call them “Millennials” or “Gen Y,” one thing is clear: Consumers born since 1980 know precisely what they want in a financial institution, and many are finding the “outstanding customer experience” they seek at credit unions.

That’s the conclusion of “Unlocking the Millennial Mystery,” a new study commissioned by CO-OP Financial Services that looks at services and products offered by credit unions, with a special focus on Millennials and the decisions they make in selecting a financial services provider. Highlights of the survey were presented to attendees Tuesday at the THINK 14 conference in New Orleans.

“Positive customer experiences (for Millennials) are largely driven by the basics — deliver on expectations and treat people with respect. Positive staff attitudes are more strongly recognized on a local scale. Both credit union members and bank customers are generally satisfied with financial institutions — credit union members much more so,” the study says.

The study reported the attitudes of a 495 survey respondents, representing both credit union members and bank customers. The respondents had also indicated to researchers that they had switched financial institutions in the past 12 months, or were open to switching. 

According to the CO-OP study:

  • 81 percent of Gen Y credit union members said that their institution provides an “outstanding customer experience,” compared to 59 percent of bank customers.
  • 96 percent of credit union members said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their credit union, compared to 88 percent of bank customers.
  • Credit union members are much stronger advocates for their financial institution. The survey found a “net promoter score” (likely to recommend) of 38 percent among credit union members; for bank customers, the figure was 16 percent.

“The competition among financial service providers to attract Millennials is fierce and getting more so as technology-based products seem to change the market environment almost daily,” says Stan Hollen, President/CEO of CO-OP Financial Services. “By addressing the safe access and convenience demands of Millennials, and leveraging their traditional service strengths, credit unions can win the loyalty of this highly sought-after consumer group.”

CO-OP conducted the study of Millennials to better understand them as consumers of financial services. Key research objectives included defining the consumer’s expectations of a financial institution; contrasting  those expectations with actual experiences, especially at credit unions; identifying the gaps between expectations and experiences; and clearly articulating what consumers want in a credit union brand. 

The study will be available in mid-June for purchase: $299 for the full “Unlocking the Millennial Mystery” research portfolio, and $199 for a comprehensive research PDF. An executive summary will also be available at no charge on

For more information about ordering CO-OP’s “Unlocking the Millennial Mystery,” write to

Questions about this story? Contact Gary M. Stein: 503.350.2216,

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