Communicate the credit union difference to consumers
During the recent ACUMA annual conference, I listened to numerous conversations about successful mortgage lending in credit unions. In fact, conference topics include ARMs, underwriting, the CFPB and other regulators, secondary markets, the outlook on Capitol Hill, and more.
As we focus on these important issues affecting how we do our jobs, we sometimes lose sight of the vitally important role credit unions play in our nation and for the millions of members who rely on credit unions for their financial well-being.
Interestingly, it was the National Association of Realtors (NAR) president who underlined this point during his address at the ACUMA Conference in September.
NAR President Steve Brown noted that credit unions serve the communities in which they operate with one of the most treasured financial services consumers need and want—the ability to purchase a home. And he illustrated the point by recalling CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s statement that credit unions are the defenders of the rights and protections for consumers in the increasingly complex world of financial services.
Brown said that the nation’s Realtors share many of these same values within a community, and he urged mortgage lenders in the credit union space to work more closely with Realtors. But Brown kept returning to the idea of what makes a credit union important to the community—that it’s different than other financial institutions.
I agree; the differentiation is critical. The marketplace and competition for home loans leave many consumers confused about their best option. Further, consumers (including some credit union members) lack of a clear understanding of the difference between credit unions and other financial institutions.
It’s imperative to overcome this lack of understanding. We must spread the word on the credit union difference.
- Communicate your message and the values of your organization to consumers. It should be at the top of your list. I’m not talking about printing more brochures or adding a few pages to your website. I’m talking about getting more involved in your community.
- Get started now. Don’t wait for anyone else (or another organization) to do your work. When credit unions spread the word the collective benefit to our system overall will be amazing.
- The best place to start is the housing sector. We may have cut our teeth on consumer loans, specifically auto loans, but that is only what got us here. Now we have to take it to another level, and housing it the way to go.
It’s time for a new and improved message about credit unions. We need to tell the nation’s consumers (and Realtors, too), that we are open for business in housing in our communities. From first-time homebuyers to aging boomers, the demand is there.
TV news channels report that many banks are no longer lending and funds for home loans are tight. Nonsense. Most ACUMA members are ready to help today. In fact, they focus their efforts on designing products and services that protect their borrowers. Credit unions have the highest trust ratings of any financial intermediary for a very good reason: They have earned it.
2015 may bring many new products and services into the marketplace, but the needs for housing remain the same. Millions of consumers are searching for the American Dream of owning their own home. Millions of others, including aging boomers, are evaluating options due to job changes, retirement or health issues. Regardless of their needs, Credit Unions can offer an answer for all.
In 2015, credit unions have the opportunity to improve our market penetration to double digits for the first time in our 105-year history. Let’s come together and make it a banner year for credit union mortgage lending.