Continental shift: What a global surge in credit union membership means for the U.S.

Are credit unions ready to take over the world? They already are.

In Asia alone, there is a 119% year-over-year increase in membership. Right now, credit unions are gaining traction across all six major continents. A 29% increase in worldwide membership is nothing to ignore.

For credit unions in the U.S., this worldwide uptick offers a unique opportunity to examine the relationship between growth and effective messaging. For many, it’s easy to get in the habit of looking for inspiration right next door. When strictly relying on local consumer trends and direct competitors’ marketing strategies for insights, brands can quickly develop blind spots. By thinking global, it’s possible to anticipate the needs of your target audiences in fresher, faster ways.

Common Threads

Right now, there are over 375 million credit union members on earth. That’s almost 50 million more people than the entire U.S. population. Credit unions are more than a movement. They are a force.

So, how did credit union memberships get so popular? Some of this uptick has to do with years of underreporting the popularity of credit unions in high population countries like India. But, many also believe the global pandemic has forced people everywhere to reassess who they trust with their money. At a time when individuals needed to band together, the importance of community-based financial resources became all the more apparent.

However, membership numbers are only one side of the coin. Lending is a huge factor in whether or not any credit union is financially fit. Although membership seems to be on the rise across the globe, loans taken out at credit unions appear to be trending down. This may be due to factors such as a country’s federal loan regulations and accessibility. But, it could also be a question of messaging. How often and when do you promote mortgages, refinancing, home lending, auto loans, and more? Make sure to offer multiple opportunities for audiences to learn about all of the services you offer. Don’t just talk about a product when it’s in season. Consistent, strategic messaging can make sure your voice doesn’t get lost in the noise.

Golden Ages

The average age of a North American credit union member is 53 years old. That’s almost a decade older compared to Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Although the typical membership age in the U.S. itself is a bit lower at 47, this should still give decision makers some pause. Considering that most Americans get their first savings account as teenagers, this older age range points to a gap in audience communication. In a recent survey of American credit union members with adult children, 60% reported their kids chose not to bank at their parents’ credit unions.

For younger adults, there are two major factors influencing who they choose to do business with—convenience and personal value alignment. When it comes to the former, seamless digital services are a must-have. For the latter, a brand must be pure of heart. Thankfully, the credit union industry’s barrier is the first one: digital convenience. Conquering it requires time and money, but it isn’t an impossible feat.

More often than not, convenience takes precedent over personal value alignment. It’s why 30% of consumers feel guilty about shopping on Amazon but continue to do it anyway. Take a look at your digital services. Do they go beyond what’s expected? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your member-facing tech. Remember that these days, digital convenience is its own form of customer service. Credit unions are historically known as the premier resource for financial help with a human mindset. Improving your suite of digital banking tools is the natural progression of what it means to provide exceptional service in today’s world.

Isle Living

Credit unions may be booming worldwide, but some institutions still struggle with loans.

In particular, Irish credit unions have seen an increase in savings accounts, but their overall loan-to-asset ratio remains low. How are they combating this issue? By thinking decades ahead.

In Ireland, many are reassessing how credit unions can be an asset during the climate change era through risk assessment, measurement, monitoring, and mitigation for households across Ireland. These initiatives have changed how consumers think about credit unions, and will likely pay off for years to come.

Identifying brand differentiators is all about taking the blinders off. What are the greatest challenges facing your community over the next 10, 20, 30 years? Chances are, these concerns will have a massive financial impact on consumers. How can your institution help? Being a true financial partner means finding solutions to problems that aren’t top of mind at the moment. From there, building unshakable brand loyalty is at your fingertips.

The phrase “future proof” is thrown around a lot these days, especially in the wake of COVID. Achieving this label can feel nearly impossible. In reality, it doesn’t require everyone to have a crystal ball. Future proofing boils down to your organization’s willingness to ask the hard questions no one wants to talk about. Thinking with a global mindset is a great way to get inspired and honor what credit unions are all about—putting people before profits.

Ben Prager

Ben Prager

Prior to forming Prager Creative, Ben worked with design studios, branding firms and advertising agencies to push great strategy and design for all his projects. His experience with all aspects ... Web: Details