A Personal Gen Y Perspective: What Credit Unions Should Know About Us

A Gen Y individual provides their personal insight into this generation and offers advice to credit unions who are seeking to attract younger members.


I would just like to speak to the credit union industry as a member of Gen Y who is working as a young professional and not far removed from college. If you'll indulge me, I would like to provide a few points that I think credit unions should take into consideration when targeting Gen Y:

How you are different?
The vast majority of younger individuals cannot tell you a single difference between a bank and a credit union. In today's environment, younger individuals only hear about financial institutions in a negative context through the media. Finding a way to differentiate yourself from the negativity surrounding the current financial marketplace can pay off substantially.

Get them young, you may not get another chance
Trust me, there are a lot of things rolling around the mind of a college student, and their banking relationship isn't one of them. They simply want somewhere to store their money, a credit or debit card, and to know where the closest free ATM is. You need to go after these individuals before they enter college, so you can serve them over the following 4 years.

I know that my first account was opened with the help of my parents when I got my first summer job. This account started a financial relationship that I still maintain to this day. The simplest way that you can reach younger Gen Y members is through their parents.

What you can do:

  • Target parents with messages about setting up their children with an account at the credit union.
  • Local student-run branches at area high schools are a great way to reach younger members and get their foot in the door.
  • Target older high school students, as they will be driving, working in part-time jobs, setting up their first accounts, obtaining their first cards, and looking for student loans before heading off for college.

Personal recommendations are very important
The first place I turn to before I purchase a product or utilize a service would be my friends and family for recommendations. I want feedback directly from someone who can tell me about their personal experience, and I'm not alone. Our generation turns to acquaintances, and even total strangers for advice (look no further than customer reviews and blogs on the internet).

What you can do:

  • Provide your existing members with the best experience possible, and encourage them to tell others if they are satisfied
  • Utilize member testimonials and specific stories in your marketing materials

Publicize that you are willing to help me establish credit
Many of my friends don't have much credit history and, despite being college graduates, have trouble obtaining loans or face extremely high rates (even at credit unions). Helping us build credit is a great opportunity for credit unions to actually differentiate themselves and provide a service that Gen Y needs!

A poor website can affect your credibility
I'm not suggesting you need to commit valuable resources to keep your website consistently fresh, but many members of Gen Y will not take you seriously if your website looks like it was designed in 1998. This is a very visible aspect of your brand, and younger potential members will look at it if they are considering your products and services. If your website looks like it is stuck in the past, this can leave a bad impression.

Yes, Gen Y still understands English, regardless of what appears in text messages
Don't get wrapped up in using what you consider to be the coolest, hippest jargon. Such terms change too fast for you to keep up with, and by the time a marketing plan actually reaches fruition, the 'edgy' language that you labored over might just be old hat. Gen Y does not want to be pandered to, they just want easy access to straightforward, clear information.

Seemingly 'insignificant details' can make a difference
I'll admit it, when I began to drive and obtained my first personal credit card, I looked over the applications that I had received in the mail, and chose the card with the design that appealed the most to me. Looking back, this may not have been the most prudent choice, but at the time, it was important for me to have a card that didn't look like everyone else's. I believe that younger members can be easily swayed by seemingly insignificant details such as the ability to exert some control over how their personal card looks.

Financial Institutions will never be 'cool' – this should not be your goal
Instead, focus on showing them how you can provide better rates, help them build their credit, and actually are an honest institution that genuinely has their best interests in mind. Like anyone else, younger individuals are simply looking for a safe, efficient, non-problematic institution that they can trust with their money.

What could actually draw me to a financial institution today?
Now that I have graduated from college, entered the workforce, and utilize services such as direct deposit and bill pay, I won't switch primary financial institutions on a whim. I could be attracted by good rates on individual product offerings, such as an auto loan, CD, high-interest checking or savings accounts, or a mortgage (when I get to that point). I do believe there is window of opportunity to attract members as they leave college, but once they start their jobs, set up multiple accounts, and become comfortable, it becomes much harder to entice them to switch. I suggest planting the credit union seed as early as you can.




April 14, 2008


  • Great "real world" insight, Dane. Two points. Teen GIRLS are the new "cyberpioneers''\" (Pew Dec 07 study). And, dig down deeper and you will find that both boys & girls are closer to their MOMS...even in traditional families.
    Roger Conant
  • As a boomer who is the mother of two Gen Y kids, I really appreciate your thoughts. I especially agree with your suggestion that credit unions should focus on what we can offer younger people rather than being "cool."
  • nice article, rings true (I am "gen-Y", too, so I know :)
    Julia Timbrook
  • Way to make it real.
  • Design well, be accessible, be real, and don''t try to be hiphop. Great points, Dane.
    Brent Dixon
  • Great comments - spot on! Great point on poor website design. As a Gen-Y, sometimes I won''t buy products from a company if their website seems outdated - it sends a message that they may not be reliable. If I''m going to log-in to a CU site on a daily or weekly basis, it better be modern and it better be clean and easy to use. Otherwise, I''m not going to belong to it. Free and accessible ATMs are very important, but an easy to use site ranks even higher for our generation.
  • Great article, practical, very true.
  • "A poor website can affect your credibility" She may not have been looking at you DCU, but I am....
  • Great article, you are truly the voice of your generation
  • Thank you putting making this clear, concise, and straight to the point
  • Totally appreciated your perspective. I especially liked the comment about credit unions shouldn't try to be cool. We need to keep our communication simple, easy, but to the point.