A recent MarketPlace.org article attributed credit union growth to lax regulations. Headlined with “As relaxed regulations spur credit union memberships, banks cry foul,” the article touts how credit unions have grown 60% over the last 20 years.
Well of course we’ve grown, credit unions are awesome for people and small businesses. That said, unfortunately, we are not exploding across the financial market. In fact, statistics shared from this year’s Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Governmental Advocacy Conference (GAC) include the disheartening fact that our market share in the financial industry “hasn’t budged from 7% over the last three decades” and while more Americans are aware of credit unions, “among non-members, 72% don’t necessarily dislike credit unions. They simply don’t consider them as part of their decision process.”
As an industry, we need to own our lack of growth. Collectively, we must do a better job of sharing our story and telling human beings why credit unions are a better choice. It has become a cliché to say that we are the “best kept secret.” We must invest in marketing. Just like the CUNA 2019 “Open Your Eyes” campaign touts, it’s time for credit unions to help consumers open their eyes to credit unions. We must tell our story in a way that focuses on the benefits we deliver, the impact we create, and the people we help.
It’s a great thing that there is a credit union out there for everyone, no matter where you work or live. As modern and sophisticated financial institutions, we are dedicated to putting our members in control because we are accountable to our members, not shareholders. That accountability means that all of our resources stay focused on helping our members turn their dreams into reality.
The good news is that when we do tell our story and consumers use us, they love us because it makes a positive impact. The MarketPlace article relates the wonderful experience of three college students who embraced joining a credit union. Each one referred their next roommate to the benefits of being a member. Again, this is not based on any “looser” laws enabling a nefariously new daisy chain connecting potential members, nor is it a new “phenomenon.” Depending on each credit unions’ charter, the Federal Credit Union Act supports extending membership in a variety of ways, including family and yes that also includes members of the same household. This is how it’s worked for decades.
We’re here to help people and when that happens, it’s natural and very positive that those people tell their friends. The MarketPlace article points out that credit unions save their members about $12 billion a year, a point CUNA detailed directly to the U.S. Congress earlier this year. The March 27, 2019, CUNA release states “There are over 115 million credit union members who benefit by $12 billion a year as a result of paying fewer and lower fees, lower loan rates and earning higher rates on deposits. Here are just a few of the ways this plays out for credit union members across the country:
- Credit unions’ new vehicle loans are 1.78% lower than other financial institutions, according to the December 2018 NCUA’s Credit Union and Bank Rates.
- Credit union members save about $1,000 in interest paid over a five year loan based on those December 2018 statistics provided by NCUA’s Credit Union and Bank Rates data. This is based on financing a $25,000 new automobile for 60 months at a credit union will save a member an average of $200 per year in interest.
- Credit union members earn 2.5X more interest on their savings with credit unions versus banks (CUNA, Open Your Eyes Campaign).
Don’t all of us desire to create positive impact for hard working people? It’s hard to believe that more consumers saving more money, paying less interest and ultimately creating a path to financial success is anything other than tremendously positive.
Credit unions were first formed to ensure that working class Americans could have access to lower cost credit and a safe place to save their money. Credit unions take the money earned, and invest it back into the products and services provided to our members. It’s also what makes us a not-for-profit member-owned cooperative that does not pay corporate taxes, so we can provide those lower loan rates and higher savings rates to the average person.
As efforts are made to change regulations for us, it is a subtle reminder that credit unions did not require a financial helping hand or additional oversight more than a decade ago to stay true to our members. And, we don’t require that now.
At Canvas, we’re dedicated to helping more people afford life and embrace being a financial by-your-side guide for our members. It’s working. In 2018, Canvas Credit Union helped our members obtain access to more than $2.1 billion in affordable loans. Canvas serves nearly 10,000 local small businesses. Also, in 2018, we awarded $56,000 in scholarships, donated $200,000 to local charities, and supported our staff volunteering 1,372 hours. And, we’re not slowing down.
We’re proud credit unions save their members about $12 billion a year as cited by MarketPlace. But we won’t stop there. Let’s help human beings, communities, and small businesses open their eyes to all credit unions’ have to offer.