Don’t Keep the Credit Union Secret

business woman using a megaphone
By Tansley Stearns, CME, CSE

4 minutes

Tell the story about all the good you do to reach the new generation and the world.

For years, many of us have been calling credit unions the best-kept secret in the country. Are you getting as tired of saying that as I am? We all should be. Credit unions have the opportunity to be a life-changing resource to the people in America who need us the most. But how can we help a new generation if they don’t know who we are? Because the fact is, they don’t and we are responsible.

Recently, The New York Times published an article about $188 million Marriott Employees’ Federal Credit Union, Bethesda, Md. It was one of the few times that credit unions have been featured in a national publication. Unfortunately, it did not tell our collective story of impact. Individual credit unions, including Marriott Employees’ FCU, make a difference for people every single day. Today, more than 115 million Americans experience this difference. That means they are paying less interest on loans, paying lower fees and learning ways to build a stronger financial future. Imagine what an impact we could make if more people were not only aware of credit unions but driven to act.

In fact, many credit unions are highlighting their membership impact. They are telling their story to help people to see why action matters. In fact, at least two credit unions are using their website landing page for this purpose. As I write this, in 2018 alone, $4.1 billion Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, E. Lansing, has already been able to save its members more than $11.3 million and counting from refinancing members’ high-interest loans from outside institutions. $3 billion Coastal Credit Union, Raleigh, North Carolina, showcases the $23.5 million that’s been given back to its membership through various efforts, such as identity theft services and video banking. That’s impact.

Recently, our president/CEO at Canvas Credit Union, CUES member Todd Marksberry, wrote a response to The New York Times. He shared a different perspective about the incredible things that credit unions do for our members and our communities. The New York Times didn’t publish his response, so we published it on our blog. We’re inviting you to not only read our perspective, but to join us in building a future where credit unions are the best-known option, not a best-kept secret.

We’re starting locally, here in Colorado. After tireless research, we identified that our very name was a roadblock in our effort to reach potential members. Our name change from PSCU to Canvas CU moves us towards better identifying with our Colorado demographic and standing out. Beyond our name, we’ve challenged ourselves to use different language, a different voice, different media and even a different budget to tell a relevant story. We are coupling our new brand with a new branch experience that eliminates teller lines so that we can truly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our members as we anticipate their needs and share financial advice.

We also entered into a 15-year partnership with one of the largest universities in Colorado, Colorado State University. The average size of CSU’s incoming freshman population is about 4,000 students. That’s 4,000 young adults every year who are stepping out into the world and looking for a financial guide. The partnership allows us the ability to share our story, engage with more young adults and be a part of creating a path to a stronger financial future. 

We all have opportunities to step into the light and show the whole world who we are. The Credit Union National Association’s campaigna smarter choice, summarizes the benefits of our industry in comprehensive chunks, highlighting saving all credit union members $9.3 billion in 2015, being rated the top financial institution in customer experience and being favored over banks by 89 percent of credit union members. Let’s share our story loudly and often. Let’s find ways to not only do it locally, but collectively together. After all, collaboration makes us who we are. 

Together, we can help more people. We can do better than being a best-kept secret. The world is changing, and if we don’t change with it then we’ll be left in the dust. What happens to a secret when the people keeping it are all gone? It fades away with them, and that’s our future if we don’t stand up for our credit union family and tell our story to the world. It’s time to let the secret out.

Tansley Stearns, CME, CSE, is chief people & strategy officer for $2.4 billion Canvas Credit Union, Lone Tree, Colo.

Stearns will be a presenter at the CUES School of Member Experience™.

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