Credit unions continue to perform well, reaching new heights in lending and finding much improved recognition for their brand overall.
Membership continues to increase. Assets continue to grow. And importantly for mortgage-lending CUs, market share continues to climb, hitting an all-time high of 11% in the first quarter of 2015.
But as the indicators move upward, the going gets tougher. For continued success, credit unions need to step back and reflect on the good fortune that has come to them, specifically by examining reasons for success then planning how to build the future.
Arguably, the biggest factor in the rise of credit unions in the 2000s can be traced to its roots. The differentiator for many consumers seems to suggest that CUs are viewed as basically different from the Big Banks and large mortgage lenders.
Throughout recent tough economic times, credit unions, felt less of the negative impact. As a result, CUs have been perceived as better financial partners than profit-oriented bigger players.
Credit unions are “member-owned cooperatives” people band together to help each other under the oversight of professional financial services management specialists.
When we talk about what differentiates CUs from banks, the “cooperative” is where the conversation should begin. Banks emphasize profits for stockholders, not service to customers.
In making this distinction, we are re-inventing the cooperative. Or, more accurately, we are re-emphasizing its original purpose and understanding its current importance. This knowledge should be used by credit union leaders (and all credit union employees) to differentiate the value proposition to members.
What differentiates credit unions from other financial institutions is the feeling that we’re in this together; we look out for each other; we care about each other.
Because that’s why cooperatives were formed— Check out a great video produced by the National Credit Union Foundation. It’s very well done!
The service and commitment to members builds trust with each and every interaction, credit union and member. At its very basic essence, our cooperative difference is what needs to be promoted.
Service. Commitment. Trust. That’s what each individual working in every credit union system must build on. It doesn’t mean CUs aren’t competitive or convenient or financially strong. Those are important. But they’re not the differentiators credit unions will need to continue being successful.