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What Millennials Want. The Future of Millenials in the Credit Union System
We’re all familiar with the stereotypes of 18- to 24‑year-olds: cconfident,
coddled, open-minded, ambitious, entrepreneurial, naive, intelligent, and
technology-focused to a fault. One could spend hours listing adjectives. As
baby boomers transition into retirement and Gen X prods along, millennials
are quickly becoming the leaders and innovators of today.
In a competitive marketplace, attracting the youngest generation is not
just good business; it’s a survival imperative. Millennials 18–24 years old
have been a key focus for credit unions over the last 10 years—and for good
reason: There are nearly 71 million millennials, born between the late 1970s
and early 1990s, in the United States today. The potential for credit unions
to capture a significant market share of this demographic is pretty high by
even the most conservative estimates or projections. And yet, the flood of
new members has never really happened.
Why, then, have credit unions struggled in capturing the hearts and minds
of millennials throughout the last decade? After all, the financial meltdown
of 2008 should have been the turning point for credit unions to overtake
banks as the primary financial institution of choice for young adults. The
stigma of the word “banks” should have been enough to drive millennials
toward credit unions. Do the youngest millennials understand the credit
union concept as well as their parents and grandparents do?
What Is the Research About?
This study addresses what has been done and what can be done to help the
youngest millennials—particularly the 18- to 24‑year-olds—better understand
the credit union system and the principles it operates on. Using a
mix of primary research and literature review, we were able to create a
foundational study that outlines how 18- to 24‑year-olds currently perceive
credit unions, whether they differentiate between banks and credit unions,
and whether credit union characteristics such as nonprofit status and
member governance matter to them.
The primary research relied on multi-platform
surveying tools to survey
a broad segment of youth. This was supplemented with an online scan of
discussions, blog posts, and other content produced by youth about financial
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What Are the Credit Union Implications?
No one is going to “solve” millennials. This is a huge generation, facing unique and new challenges. At the same time, we are all hurtling into a new globalized, networked future that none of us yet fully understand. Having said that, the information, statistics, and studies do suggest some strategies worth considering:
Technology isn’t enough to impress. Going mobile is effectively meaningless as a differentiator because everyone should be—and soon will be—doing it. Given that the cell phone is one of the fastest-spreading technologies in history, defining millennials as the “mobile generation” is shortsighted. It doesn’t define just them; it defines us all.
Social media is crucial for engagement. Social media can’t be a halfhearted effort or something that doesn’t spring from the authentic nature of the organization. Credit unions that have had success with social media use it as a natural extension of their work, not as a pure marketing effort.
Focusing on price will cost you the game. Let’s stipulate that lower prices and fair treatment are critical. Credit unions recognize