A Personal Gen Y Perspective

What should credit unions know about us in the current economic environment?


I would just like to speak 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 is Gen Y different?
The vast majority of younger individuals cannot tell you a single difference between a bank and a credit union. And in today’s deepening recession, younger individuals are only hearing about financial institutions in a negative context through the media. Differentiating your credit union from the negativity surrounding the current financial marketplace can pay off substantially. The ‘safety and soundness’ theme resonates with Gen Y, too.

Personal recommendations are very important
The first place I turn before purchasing a significant product or use a new 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 family, friends, and even total strangers for advice (look no further than customer reviews and internet blogs).

What you can do:
When you provide your members with the best experience possible or let them know that you are ready and willing to help in trying times, encourage them to spread the word. Gen Y is listening!

Get them young, you may not get another chance
Trust me, lots of things roll around the mind of a college student, but their banking relationship isn’t one of them. They simply want somewhere to store their money, a credit or debit card, and ready access to a free convenient ATM. With this mindset, plan to go after these individuals before they enter college, then serve them well over the following four years.

During the years leading up to high school graduation, many students taste responsibility and begin to make adult decisions for the first time. Most will set up financial accounts out of necessity during this period, if they have not done so already. The simplest way that you can reach these younger Gen Y members is through their parents. 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.

What you can do:
1) Target parents about setting up credit union accounts for their children.
2) Reach younger members and build trust through local area school programs or student-run branches.
3) Target older high school students, who will start to drive, work in part-time jobs, obtain their first credit card, and look for student loans before heading off to college.

Publicize that you are willing to lend and help me establish credit
Student lending has been one of the many tragic casualties of the financial meltdown. While many traditional sources of lending have dried up, many credit unions have found success by stepping up to fill the void.

Because many Gen Yers have little or no credit history, they are among the first to feel the effects of tightened underwriting standards. Even some of my friends who have graduated from college have trouble obtaining loans or face extremely high rates (even at credit unions). If a young member has nothing negative on their credit report, granting them a reasonable loan should be a risk worth taking for credit unions looking to reach younger members. 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 keeping 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 outdated, this may undermine your credibility with younger individuals at a time when folks are looking for an extra reason to be skeptical of financial institutions.

The ‘Basics’ Resonate Right Now
Show younger members that you can help build their credit, provide better rates, and are an honest institution that genuinely has their best interest at heart. Like anyone else, younger individuals are simply looking for a safe, efficient, non-problematic institution that they can trust with their money. Make sure they know that your credit union can be counted on!