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CU Snapshot

 Mar '18Feb '18
# of CUs5,5965,757
Total Assets
($ billions)
Total Savings
($ billions)
Net Cap.
Loans to Savings81.5%82.6%
Loan Delinq.0.8%0.9%

         Credit Union Indicators

Cooperative Structure Resonates With Millennials

Don't forget to tell them your CU is one.

Millennials' attitudes and awareness of cooperatives can obviously have a bearing on credit union marketing strategies.

CUNA's 2015-2016 National Member & Nonmember Survey reveals that among members ages 18 to 30, 47% say they're either "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with cooperatives, compared with 40% of same-age nonmembers.

"This suggests credit unions' cooperative structure could motivate a sizable proportion of young adults to take a closer look—and perhaps become members," says Jon Haller, CUNA's director of corporate and market research.

The survey finds co-op awareness highest among millennials who are college graduates or students, perhaps because of the exposure to housing and food co-ops in college towns.

Young adults also have a propensity for using businesses that are involved in the local community or are socially or environmentally responsible, according to CUNA's survey. Numerous studies show such characteristics matter to millennials when deciding which businesses to support.

About 70% of respondents ages 18 to 30, including both members and nonmembers, say they're either "much more likely" or "somewhat more likely" to patronize such businesses.

So what do these findings mean for credit union marketing? What terminology and messages are likely to grab young adults' attention? "That likely will depend partly on the make-up of your membership and surrounding community," Haller says.

For example, in Minneapolis, four local food co-ops partner with $800 million asset Spire Federal Credit Union in a co-branded credit card program. Cardholders can earn money for their favorite co-op when they shop with the card. Plus, the credit union attracts new members as people open Visa accounts through their food co-op. Connecting to the local co-op network is growing Spire Federal's membership.

A recent survey by the Austin (Texas) Cooperative Business Association also found that:

Familiarity with other kinds of cooperative businesses is a strong indicator of credit union membership.

Credit union members who also belong to other co-ops are more likely to use their credit union as their primary financial institution.

The survey report recommends: "Credit unions can gain market share by emphasizing their relationship to familiar cooperative businesses. This is especially true in Austin, which has more cooperatives of various kinds and sizes than most cities in the U.S."

Some credit unions report differing experiences, however. At Louisiana Federal and University of Illinois Employees Credit Union, for instance, co-op language has little positive effect on members and potential members—and, in fact, seems to create confusion. But both credit unions promote themselves as member-owned and locally owned. The "buy local" movement is strong in both communities.

These messages share common themes, Haller observes: "Member-owned, locally owned, not-for-profit, cooperative—what's important is to stress the credit union difference."