Survey Shows Key Strengths, Challenges for Credit Unions With Engaging Members

Anthem talked to a few Northwest credit unions about how they handle member engagement, following a recent Gallup survey showing credit unions outpacing banks.

For good reason, members largely feel good about belonging to a credit union. The not-for-profit cooperative model, with democratic member control, is a warmly-accepted hallmark of credit unions in the communities they serve. But according to a recent survey by Gallup, that good feeling isn’t always translated to significant financial events and services.

52 percent of those surveyed felt “fully engaged” by their credit union, compared to only 17 percent of bank customers. However, that engagement didn’t seem to correlate to a comparable wallet share to banks.

One reason, according to the survey, is that banks have more “expansive” conversations with customers, moving beyond deposit-related discussions, to key financial events and goals. It detailed a reticence that credit unions may have at even starting such a conversation.

In the Northwest, many credit unions have led by example in member engagement, often starting earlier with financial education. For example, among more than 540 member stories Rivermark Community Credit Union recently received, pointed to that foundation:

“I started out with the teen account and have moved up. I joined the Army, and only ever used Rivermark. The service has, and is, always perfect,” read one submission to Rivermark. “Even when I lived out of state or traveled internationally, my accounts always worked and I never had issues with refinancing my auto loan. Even though I am currently out of state, I refuse to bank with anyone else.”

Justin Martin, Chief Human Resource/Chief Marketing Officer for Verity Credit Union, pointed to similar stories from members, though from a slightly different entry point.

“We had a member really struggling with a car loan. They went through some struggles, actually were homeless for a period. They needed a car to get back and forth to work. They received a loan from another institution at around 27 percent and we were able to refinance to about half that. Just through a proactive conversation with them coming into one of our branches.”

In a practical sense, Numerica Credit Union defined “fully engaged” to include community service, noting that its employees volunteered more than 13,500 hours last year alone. In addition, they described a new branch design model to help break down communication barriers and encourage “deeper conversations with members about their needs, goals and future plans.”

Most conversations were representative of the sentiment expressed by Martin, from Verity, who noted the financial cooperative model brought credit unions’ focus, always, back to members:

“It surprises me that there’s such a large disconnect between credit unions and banks, but it doesn’t shock me. I think credit unions, by nature, do a better job at treating members as individuals instead of on an enterprise level.”

Being able to take these stories and share them in growing membership, engaging in advocacy or showcasing the credit union difference can go a long way. How are you engaging your members? Contact us to share your story.

Click here for the full Gallup survey.

Questions about this story? Contact Eric Horvath: 503.350.2222, [email protected].