A Culture of Aspirations, not Expectations

I don’t generally write articles that are based on the meaning of words and how that influences our perspective. Yet, I’ve been contemplating the differences between aspirations and expectations for a period of time and I believe it’s worthwhile to take a moment to further explore how their interpretation can meaningfully impact your culture.

Expectation – a belief that something will or is likely to happen

© Copyright 2014 CorbisCorporation

While the differences may be subtle I think the effect can be tremendous. Let’s start by stating you have an expectation that loans will grow by 10% this year. The definition implies that not only is it likely to happen, but there will be some level of disappointment if the growth is not achieved. Should the goal actually be met there’s a diminished sense of accomplishment – after all it was expected. Furthermore, there isn’t any implication of the amount of work that may be required in order to achieve the desired loan growth. In my experience positive results don “just happen” without sound, actionable strategies and solid execution. It’s important to realize this upfront and also to recognize the effort and exertion required to bring the results to fruition. If it’s expected the desired outcome is taken for granted.

Aspiration – a strong desire to achieve something high or great

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

However, if you aspire to achieve double digit loan growth I believe that there are some additional, very beneficial implications. First there’s the desire – suggesting that this might be something that you really want to happen while also indicating that it will not materialize without some focused action. The acknowledgement that you will not be able to achieve the measure without putting in the requisite effort emphasizes the fact that in order to achieve something high or great you have to actually do something substantially different or it will not transpire. The latter half of the definition acknowledges that achieving the goal is a significant accomplishment – something to be recognized and celebrated – not going unnoticed or quickly forgotten.

Semantics yes, but Employee Perception is Their Reality

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

So what does this have to do with your culture? In a high-performing organization isn’t it all right to expect great results? The flaw in this thinking is that it doesn’t adequately acknowledge the efforts of the people required to obtain the extraordinary outcomes. Eventually the star performers who generate the lion’s share of results tire of ever increasing expectations and being taken for granted. The overriding motivational factor is fear of failure, which is not a prescription for long term employee engagement.

Conversely by conceding upfront that the goals may be lofty, but achievable given sufficient effort, you have emphasized their importance and the critical role each employee will need to play in reaching such a lofty height. If you commit the necessary resources and pay attention to progress periodically along the way that’s further reinforcement that the mission the employees are doing is critical to the success of the institution, not just “part of their job”. Finally, upon successful attainment of the goal, by recognizing and celebrating the efforts the individual’s involved you’ve created an environment where teams come together collectively in wanting to take the organization to even greater heights. Not out of fear, but genuine engagement that is sustainable over the long term. If you aspire to have a great credit union that soars to new heights be wary of simply setting expectations.

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Omni Channel Experience: Is The Possible Practical? Or Vice Versa…

Just How Integrated Does Your Omni-Channel Experience Need to Be?© Copyright 2014 CorbisCorporation

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t see the words “omni-channel experience” used in some form to describe the nirvana of what financial institutions should be aspiring to provide. While for many organizations and their customers a greater level of integration would be a quantum leap in being able to provide quality member service at what point do we reach a point of diminishing returns? Just because it may be possible to “seamlessly” integrate delivery channels I’m not certain the typical or even somewhat technologically advanced consumer much cares.

When I was CEO of a decent sized credit union back in 2010 our leadership team (myself included) decided that having seamlessly integrated technology should be a core tenet of our credit union’s business model. When combined with highly developed employees (“universal”) and simplified solutions the sought after outcome was a positive experience for the member that would drive deeper relationships. While I was the chief proponent initially five years down the road I now question the logic – is that what members really want (seamless integration)? Was it an ideal state of how I thought things could be given enough resources and time to truly incorporate all channels? A source of pride to thump my chest among financial institution peers more than to meet member demand? Just because it’s feasible doesn’t mean consumers will flock to it.

In his recent post We Will Never Get to the Omni Promised Land the typically brilliant Gonzo Steve Williams breaks down the technological challenges that must be surmounted like Tiger trying to chip these days. He shoots straight with lines like “hope in one technical solution is mostly a waste of time” and “there is no technical panacea”. The article clearly spells out the difficulties in trying to achieve the desired state – namely trying to get moving targets aligned – yet fails to address whether or not there is actual demand from the end users to even consider engaging in the folly.

Practically Speaking


As a consumer what I really want is for the information residing in your systems to be consistent and for the applications to be easily accessible and simple to navigate. Deliver on your brand promise.© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporation

  • Is it too much to ask that I only have to submit one address, phone number or email change through whatever channel and that all my accounts, including loans serviced, plastic cards and brokerage accounts will be properly modified?
  • When I apply for a loan either in person, online or via a mobile app can I avoid having to provide the same information that you have already obtained from me on several other occasions? I don’t care if you have separate consumer and mortgage systems – if you want my loan business find a way to make the information universally accessible regardless of product line.
  • For the sake of a consistent, positive member service experience can’t there be a common platform where the history of the issue I’m trying to deal with is readily accessible to anyone I encounter in the resolution process? Don’t make me repeat the same story again and again, please. Enough said.

While delivering on these concerns may seem elementary experience tells me that the majority of financial institutions would have problems hitting the trifecta on all 3 of the objectives above. If you’re able to successfully execute on these challenges and do it consistently over time you can go to the head of the class. If you strive for much more I believe you’ve crossed over the line that will result in frustration, unnecessary expense and diminishing returns.

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Your Business Model: Time to Tune Up or Trade In?

There seems to be a proliferation of information circulating these days on how mobile apps are the branches of the future. You’ll get no argument from me that in the future mobile and the interactions enabled by it seem to be the most likely replacement for branches (at this time). The more relevant question today is how quickly that future will be adopted and what steps you need to take in order to ensure your relevance going forward. The best way I know to begin that process is by taking a look at how well your business model is performing today compared to a few short years ago. © Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

Business Model Tenets

When working with clients I like to break the business model down into two relatively simple components:

  1. What are we doing to attract, retain and grow relationships with customers (members)?
  2. How are the essential elements (net interest income, non-interest income, operating efficiency and relationship depth & breadth) impacting profitability?

At a purely macro level the first question defines our value proposition while the second one reflects how that’s translated onto the balance sheet and income statement.

Can You Clearly State Your Value Proposition & Is It Working?

Defining value as a combination of price, service and convenience where is your advantage and how do you communicate that? The most common answer I hear for mid-sized credit unions is typically “service”. I think they state that because it’s hard to quantify. It’s also very challenging to articulate in a way that resonates. Larger credit unions can usually demonstrate price and convenience advantages primarily due to economies of scale. These are also much easier to communicate.

Tune Up or Trade In: Are you growing members in the demographics (age and income) you desire? What are the characteristics of the members you’ve lost recently – are these the members you will need to fuel loan growth in the coming decade? Have you been able to deepen and grow existing relationships in the last 2-3 years with your current product and service offerings? If the answers to these questions trouble you it may be time to trade in your old business model and create a new one that will work going forward. If you’re relatively pleased with the overall way things are going, what specifically could use a “tune up” so that you can continue down the road worry free for a few more years?

Factors Influencing Profitability© Copyright 2014 CorbisCorporation

Loans and the resulting income they generate drive a credit union’s economic engine. In 2014 the industry as a whole had a record breaking year for lending. If your loan growth results have you feeling like you’ve been left in the dust and lacking horsepower a major overhaul may be needed. Technology today has eliminated the need for a physical presence to be considered the lender of choice and it’s a whole lot cheaper than building branches. If your non-interest income is going to feel a hit from the decline in mortgage lending this year what are you doing to grow checking accounts with the various sources of revenue that they consistently generate? Will one or two enhancements make a huge difference or does your entire pricing structure need revamped?

There is no greater strain on profitability than operating expenses that continue to escalate without proper analysis. As business fundamentally shifts to being substantially driven by the member you must also transform your staff into a new wave of value creators. By the same token product lines that have outlived their usefulness need to be consolidated and simplified. The degree to which this needs to occur depends on just how excessive it has become.

Time for a Change

Just as much of the auto loan demand over the last year was created by consumers who could no longer justify repairing the old in favor of more efficient and higher tech new models many credit unions are now faced with the reality that the time to trade in their old business model has come. For a few it’s imperative that they do it now while there is still some trade-in value to their franchise. For the rest of you it is still a most worthwhile endeavor to take a look under the hood and maybe even do some browsing on the lots. Oh wait, you can do that online as well.

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Are You Paying Attention?

As a credit union CEO one of the most critical roles I was responsible for was in planning for the future. To do this I proactively immersed myself in relevant publications, associations and conversations however this could lead to unnecessary distractions. Just as importantly I needed to understand how members behavioral activity at my credit union was changing or transforming. Here’s a short list of key performance indicators credit union executives might consider paying attention to at their institution heading in to 2015.

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

Member Growth

At first glance the 3.1% member growth in the industry over the last year could be seen as strictly positive. Yet upon closer inspection it would seem a significant source of new members in 2014 is the indirect lending channel. Over the same period indirect loans outstanding have grown by over 23% to $115 billion. I’m not here to debate indirect lending –I think it’s a very smart way to deploy funds for a number of reasons. My concern is that we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking that we’re an innovative, attractive option for meeting consumers banking needs when we’ve essentially just “rented” a lending relationship. This stance can be somewhat offset by the industry’s increase in share draft penetration to almost 54% but the real answers lie in your own institutions results.

  • Starting with new & closed members – what’s your monthly churn? If you are having a hard time just keeping up prioritize by reducing the closures. Do you know why your members are leaving? It’s expensive to attract new members so what are you willing to do to retain the existing?
  • What products are driving new relationships? Just as importantly – what products retain relationships? Let’s face it – the whole membership share requirement is an awkward and inefficient use of credit unions resources which tends to distract focus from more important issues. Don’t get lost in that quagmire.
  • Are you growing both the number and the percentage of your members who have active checking accounts with you? A true test of your relevance is the ability to attract and maintain core deposit members. How does your share draft penetration stack up to peers?

Payment Trends

From my perspective the one relationship that’s indispensable is being at the hub of the members’ payments sphere (the ubiquitous share draft account). The daily interaction and ease with which we can securely facilitate our members’ routine financial activities is essential to validating the important part we play in their lives. There are a seemingly endless number of payments options with more being rolled out every day. Yet these are typically just conduits or delivery mechanisms between where the funds initially reside and the eventual destination. We want to maintain and solidify our position as being the primary home from which our members’ financial activity takes place. From a profitability standpoint understand that the best approach is to be in on a piece of the revenue on each transaction and build volume.

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

2015 will be an interesting year to watch the EMV and tokenization adoption. With the former still being a card based transaction and the latter being card less we may get an indication of how ready consumers are to change the way they pay. For small and mid-sized credit unions the ability to participate fully in both technologies may be financially daunting. You don’t want to guess wrong with the stakes being so high. At your credit union pay attention to:

  • Volume trends associated with each of the various delivery channels & payments options; make plans to eliminate methods that are in decline and no longer desirable.
  • Know (& understand) the income & expense structure associated with each of the various transaction types or delivery channels.
  • Based on these results what operational & marketing adjustments do you need to make in 2015? Have you adjusted staffing models and employee expectations to maximize value?

Lending Enhancements© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

It’s fantastic that credit unions are gaining market share with double digit gains in loans outstanding. As an industry we should want to be recognized as the consumer lenders of choice. Putting dollars to work by “investing” in indirect auto loans generally makes good financial sense and creates the opportunity for millions of new consumers to be provided with exposure to credit unions. We’ve reached all-time highs in credit card, auto and mortgage loan penetration. To improve upon current performance we don’t need to implement new products or services – just look at your own results and make strategic changes that will incrementally help the member experience and the bottom line.

  • Compare the percentage of loans you fund in each credit tier with how your entire membership breaks down. Are your C and D Tier members getting their fair share of loans? Have too many impediments in place that are forcing a large number of your A tier credits to borrow elsewhere? Perhaps it even begins at the application stage where a significant number of potential borrowers don’t even bother to apply based on the perception that you aren’t interested in loaning them money. Discrepancies tell a story – is yours a good one?
  • Look at the approved to funded ratio by product type. Here again inconsistencies may indicate that you have process gaps that require attention. Sure, the process to get an unsecured loan to closing is easier than that of a HELOC but inspect closely for results that don’t make sense. Any loan that you can get approved but doesn’t fund should merit further examination.
  • Identify trends in the application channels – what percentage has shifted to online or mobile? What are you approval and funding ratios based on the application source? Can you streamline processes or eliminate requesting unnecessary information to keep members from bailing in the middle of an application?

It’s always fun to see what’s new and exciting on the horizon – just don’t forget to pay attention to what you’ve already got and what you must do to retain and grow those relationships.

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Bridging the Great Divide requires Calculated Risk Taking

Each quarter as NCUA releases its guidance on the state of the credit union industry we continue to see the gap widen between the thriving and the dying. The “thriving” are those growing, profitable credit unions who consistently achieve desirable results while continuing to transform themselves into viable financial cooperatives for the foreseeable future. As for the “dying”, well let’s just say the recent past hasn’t been kind to them and their future isn’t any brighter. Most reasonable people will say the biggest differentiator between the two classes is size – but just how did the “thriving” get there? My point is that the real difference maker is they’ve become adept at being calculated risk-takers, or put another way – more effective risk managers.

So where are the most significant structural differences? In Capital Hoarding, Lending Attitudes & Long Term Perspective

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

Capital Hoarding – The Dying cling to their capital under the mistaken belief it will protect them from extinction. NCUA’s June 30, 2014 Summary of Trends by Asset Group shows that the smallest peer group (< $10 million) in assets have a net worth ratio of 36% higher than the fastest growing & most profitable institutions (assets > $500 million). While a shrinking asset base inflates the ratio I believe the underlying lesson is that you absolutely must continue to invest revenue generated back into the credit union in the form of people, products, systems and facilities in order to maintain relevance. The former (people) is not only your greatest expense but can truly be your most significant differentiator. The productivity ratio (as defined by total revenue/compensation & benefits) at the higher performers is 46% greater than those struggling or in decline. They create $3.20 of revenue for every dollar spent on staff contrasted with $2.19. It’s not how many people but what they’re focused on. Do the tasks typically performed add value or emulate current electronic delivery channel alternatives? Leaders of the successful have skillfully redeployed the earnings created into new products and services that meet the needs of their members, and just as importantly created additional revenue streams.

Lending is an Attitude That Your Actions Support

Perhaps the widest gulf in the comparison between the haves and the have not’s is reflected in the loan to share ratio. The rising credit unions have managed to loan out nearly 20% more of their members share dollars to meet the borrowing needs of others in their cooperative. They clearly understand the favorable trade-off that by loaning an additional dollar out of each five on deposit to assist their members they can accept lower loan yields and still generate a higher return than if the money resides in an investment. Charge-off levels are virtually equal and delinquency is actually higher at those credit unions who “struggle” to make loans. © Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

My first job at a credit union over 20 years ago was to reverse the decline in loan balances outstanding. Several years earlier the initial sponsor had closed the doors on their manufacturing facility and moved thousands of jobs to a neighboring state which resulted in the credit union severely restricting the availability of credit. In the ensuing years the credit union had done an excellent job of diversifying and growing its membership in the community but failed to re-open the lending “faucet”. Simply put they had become expert at finding ways to deny loans instead of adept in looking for ways to get them approved. It required a complete change of perspective (or attitude) but literally within months the trend was reversed. While some of the members had long memories the introduction of new programs (at that time) like indirect lending and first mortgage lending provided us with a whole new array of borrowers. Some of the most successful “small” credit unions I know of are quite skillful at risk-based consumer lending creating loan yields that would be the envy of many larger organizations. At the heart of this activity is an attitude or desire to find ways to make loans that are still significantly cheaper to the member than those provided by non-credit union competition.

Long Term Perspective

© Copyright 2009 Corbis CorporationAnother startling difference can be found in the percentage of long term assets held by the flourishing. Fully one-fourth more of their balance sheet is being deployed today in ways that create greater revenue and help build the required infrastructure, while the fading continue to equate rising rates with a falling sky. My point is this –credit unions that have strategically chosen to put their assets to work over a longer term are planning to be around for the duration and managing the entirety of the resources they’ve been entrusted with in a manner that suggests greater vision or comprehension – not a lack of it. What’s the lost opportunity cost over the last five years for credit unions who have continued to stay short, refusing to lower loan rates to record lows or selling off loans that yielded far in excess of their investments in fear of what might happen should rates rise in the short term? Could the revenue that would have been generated been used to invest in new products and services, additional income streams that would potentially offset the downside and more importantly meet the demands of their membership?

The risk of doing nothing

We’re in the risk management business friends, not risk avoidance. If you think playing it safe is going to mean survival think again – you need to be taking calculated risks, developing relationships and alliances that make you in demand; not putting up walls that will isolate you further from those who need your services the most. The cost of doing nothing could mean the end of your credit union, while taking calculated risks may increase your exposure the premise is that you understand and limit those risks to be non-fatal. If you’re ready to move forward in bridging the gap and join the ranks of the thriving but don’t feel comfortable in being able to calculate the risks don’t feel like you need to go it alone – we’re here to help.

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Transformers: The High-Performing Credit Union

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

I typically work with mid-sized credit unions – which I loosely define as having $50-$500 million in assets. My focus is there as I believe these institutions are at a critical juncture in their existence. Over the last several years the “great divide” between those credit unions that are growing and profitable and those who aren’t has become alarming. While asset size isn’t the sole indicator of a credit unions likelihood of continuing existence it seems to be the most consistent. To remain healthy in the world today requires an ability to foresee and then adapt to change. Creating a future vision that differentiates you from the crowd and improves your odds at survival seems to me to be the easier task. Actually implementing and executing upon the vision requires you to develop and sustain a high-performing organization. Regardless of your asset size the vast majority of credit unions are in desperate need to undertake major organizational initiatives. Transforming your processes to take advantage of technology – both from a member and a staff perspective, overhauling of physical locations, and upgrading your brand to attract the borrowers who will drive income over the next decade are all of critical importance. These significant undertakings can’t be accomplished successfully without a high performing culture where great expectations are achieved by overcoming inertia. If you’re ready to transform here are some suggestions to consider.

Focus Has to Begin & End with the Membership

Simply put, the reason for your existence needs to stay front & center. What we are all striving to produce is greater engagement and participation from your largest group of stakeholders – the membership. Uniting around this common cause can help eliminate departmental silos and create a very effective filter for prioritization and decision making. Executing upon a vision that creates tangible positive benefits in the communities you serve creates an emotional bond among team members that can propel you to greater levels of performance. Leadership and change authority John Kotter states “Leaders who know what they are doing will “aim for the heart.” They will connect to the deepest values of their people and inspire them to greatness. They will make the business case come alive with human experience, engage the senses, create messages that are simple and imaginative, and call people to aspire.”

Apple doesn’t have the highest market value because it’s a great technology company; it simply understands it exists to provide solutions that make people’s lives easier and creates memorable experiences. Translate the social mission of your credit union similarly – to provide financial services in a manner which provides ease, security and contentment to your members.

Setting the Pace for Genuine Transformation

In my definition a high performing organization is one that has established a rhythm or pace for successfully incorporating change that results in real, measured progress – not anxiety and burnout. Be honest about your resources and capabilities, but determined to create solutions now for the opportunities that currently exist. Identify measures for development and begin tracking improvement early in the process. Start slowly, over time as your abilities to manage projects and initiatives improves with repetition you can accelerate the pace of change without increasing levels of stress.

Incorporating Accountability at the Peer Level

The idea that the culture of a high performing organization should resemble a free-wheeling, innovation breeding incubator of anarchy has to be dismissed. In a recent post (The Best Teams Hold Themselves Accountable – Joseph Grenny – Harvard Business Review ) the author concludes “in high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another”. That means everyone adhering to the little things like guidelines on meeting attendance, timelines and appropriate meeting behavior (i.e. what’s the rule on interacting with mobile devices during meetings – it doesn’t matter what the rule is as long as you’re willing to conform for that brief period). Meetings exist to monitor the pace of change and ensure progress – the vast majority of work should take place outside of them. Be respectful to the meeting guidelines and you’ll have to spend less time in them. Do you have a culture of universal accountability? Effective accountability doesn’t result from fearing authority it comes from wanting to demonstrate competency to your peers.

Communicate, Communicate, Consistently Communicate

Leaders not only need to establish the vision and direction, but consistently reinforce it through various forms of communication. One of my biggest lessons learned as a credit union CEO in creating a high-performance culture was the need to continuously voice the same message – way beyond the point where I thought it was repetitive. I’ve come to understand that people learn from different methods, different communication channels and in differing time frames. Altering or “tweaking” the message too frequently in an effort to keep it fresh often creates more confusion than benefit. By paying attention the engagement levels of your team you will know if and when it’s time for a change.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

It’s the end of the world as we know it?

The world, including that of credit unions is transforming at an alarming pace. Brian Solis’ captures this vividly in his new piece (Digital Transformation and the Race Against Digital Darwinism – Brian Solis). He defines success not as “implementing new technologies but from transforming the organization to take advantage of the new possibilities the technology provides”. How effectively are you transitioning your business model to a relationship based technology model? Without establishing a high performing organization how do you expect to compete – not over the long haul, but in the immediate days and months ahead? Ten years ago I was guilty of thinking that technology was the solution to the largest problems that plagued my former credit union. Today I understand that the solutions were found by engaging people to build better processes and consequent member experiences that were enabled by technology. I don’t think there is anything I’ve personally been involved with from a business perspective that was as rewarding as building a high performance culture that I knew would be sustainable upon my departure. Yes, the world is ending as we know it – but I’m pretty stoked about the future.

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Put ‘em Up. Are you fighting to keep millennials?

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation


A millennial who graduated this decade with a journalism degree from a Big10 university provided the following insight for me. I believe it accurately conveys the mindset of his peers. While many credit unions are struggling to attract this demographic I believe the best opportunity for growing membership is in listening to and creating proponents from existing millennial members already doing business with you. At the end of each section I’ve highlighted what I believe to be some key areas of emphasis.

 Mobility = Convenience, Loyalty Doesn’t Matter

 “Millennials want convenience. They want to be able to transfer money sitting at their breakfast table or to deposit checks into their accounts on the go. They have less (no) brand loyalty; Millennials have no problem switching financial institutions as they enter and leave college and then switching again as they scatter themselves across the country wherever the job market lands them. With the job market still floundering, millennials are more migratory than ever. A 2014 study from the U.S. Census Bureau found young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 have the highest migration rate of any age group. (paa2014.princeton.edu/papers/140972) More millennials are trading in the rural lifestyle for the big cities, leaving smaller community institutions behind. Although many credit unions have shared branching capability to extend their reach – that can be misunderstood and intimidating to millennials. Seventy-one percent of millennials would prefer a trip to the dentist over dealing with a bank, according to Scratch, a consulting firm that specializes in millennials. (http://www.millennialdisruptionindex.com/) Why then would millennials want to deal with two banks when most say they would prefer to not even deal with one?”

Action Item: Convenience (the online kind) will trump loyalty, period. You better be providing it. They’ll go where the job market takes them & switch institutions in a heartbeat. Do you make it simple for them to join & open accounts online?

 Marketing & Technology are the Keys   Businesswomen Fighting

“From this millennial’s perspective, the keys to attracting and keeping us as customers are marketing and technology. Technology has changed everything and millennials have grown up with it, there’s no fear – we look forward to embracing changes that improve convenience. I’m not alone in preferring to do my banking from the comfort of home or on the go. I want options. Give me the ability to deposit my checks remotely. Allow me to easily pay my bills via smartphone app. Provide me with a calendar feature to alert me when my bills are coming due. As the number of online banking options explodes, visits to local branches will continue to diminish and I’m OK with that. It’s up to credit unions and banks to adapt or get left behind. That’s not to say we don’t want a physical location. If I have a problem, I want to be able to talk to a person – not a robot on a phone or an internet message system. Branchless banking – assuming it comes with quality customer service – is an option millennials would embrace.”

Action Item: It’s not enough to provide options – they want to direct the interaction & transaction. Cash flow is tight, they need to control the timing of when payments will be made.  

 “The other essential to keeping me is marketing. Simply put: Prove to me why I should stay with your bank. What does your company offer me that others don’t? What sets you apart? The disruption index shows that credit unions haven’t done a good job differentiating themselves from the competition. The majority of millennials don’t believe their bank offers anything different than other banks. Communicating the differences to a group that is increasingly mobile and increasingly desensitized to advertisements – is a challenge. TV ads are out – many of us long ago traded cable and broadcast television for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. When it comes to radio we’ve switched to online music services over traditional local radio. I promptly discard mail advertisements. Most of us have been conditioned to ignore internet ads.”

 Action Item:  Tell them how you’re different – not that you have mobile apps like everyone else. Tell them how you will make their life easier – paying your bills over the phone by snapping a picture of them isn’t just easy, it almost makes paying them fun.

 Text Them How Much You Care     Mixed race architect using cell phone in office

 “So how do you reach us? Try our phones. Text us or send us push alerts through your mobile apps. A 2014 report from Bank of America shows that 85% of respondents check their smartphone at least a few times a day and the youngest of millennials ranked their smartphone as more important than the internet, deodorant and their toothbrush. (http://paybefore.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/2014_BAC_Trends_in_Consumer_Mobility.pdf) Not every text or push alert will be read. But by texting updates or promotions, or sending push alerts built into apps, you’ll have a higher success rate of reaching us.”


Action Item: Messaging needs to be targeted through their phone – do you have the tools to make that happen? It’s your best bet for communicating with them & it actually being read. As a dad of two millenials this is how I stay in touch & convey what’s important.


“Credit unions can’t afford to take millennials for granted. Never stop courting me as a customer. We’re a mobile group poised to make career and housing decisions that could easily take us away from your primary market. Communicate with me, your current customer, rather than focusing solely on chasing potential clients. Just because I’ve opened an account with you doesn’t mean I don’t need to be persuaded to remain. If you do that I might stick around as a customer.  Don’t assume I’ll always be there, because unless you fight to keep me, I likely won’t.”

Action Item: They understand they have choices & leverage -a good member service experience and simple, effective processes are table stakes. They want a relationship based on you respecting their needs, letting them know continually that you value their business.

One final parting thought, are millenials really that different or just a little ahead of the curve?

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