As this year starts on a wave of economic uncertainty, it is clear that members are looking to their credit union for guidance and assistance. Savings-related issues top the list of member’s financial goals and priorities for 2008, according to a recent credit union member survey conducted by Callahan’s Internet Strategy Consortium. Reducing debt is also a major concern for members, and many say that they are carrying a balance on at least some of their credit cards. The research, conducted in January 2008 via online surveys placed on twelve credit union websites, provided insight into members’ savings goals and specific ways credit unions can help them meet their financial goals.
While half of the members said they are concerned about saving for retirement, close to half also said they need to save more in general. Women tended to have a greater focus on savings than men, even when aspects such as age and income were factored in. Half of the women cited their desire to save more in general; more women also cited a need to make enough to cover their expenses. The graph below demonstrates the, at times, significant differences in between the sexes.
How can credit unions help members with their savings goals in 2008?
One clear opportunity for credit unions is not just helping members identify savings/debt reduction goals, but helping track an individual’s progress towards these goals. Members suggested a variety of ways that their credit unions could help them meet their savings goals. Suggestions cover a wide range of areas, ranging from new types of savings accounts, better education, and additional tools to help them track expenses. While some comments refer to new types of tools, some refer to tools that the credit union may already offer, but may need to position differently so members can understand how they can help them.
- Easier Online Application Process
“Easier ways to sign up and use these services. I don't use them because I get frustrated trying to figure them out.”
- E-mail Alerts for Special Offers
“Sending me notices on small amount investments to lock my money away for short (one to two year) terms with a moderate return…”
- Automated Withdrawals for Saving
“The credit union could put a certain amount of money from my paycheck into a special savings account for a specific goal I choose.”
- Named Savings Accounts (or Sub-Savings Accounts)
“I especially like the idea of being able to have multiple savings accounts. At the moment I maintain accounts in different institutions just to keep the money separate, not because I like one institution over another for one purpose or another. It adds some complexity to managing the money, but it simplifies things in that I never have to think about how much of this money is for which purpose--ALL of it is for whatever purpose that account is for.”
- Customizable Bill Pay
“I love bill pay, but the set up needs to be a little more user friendly. Maybe a calendar set up that shows pending payments, scheduled payments, recent payments and due dates on one screen. it would be even better if users could enter their own generic reminders like payday. One step further would be to integrate the monthly account transactions into the calendar with the other bill pay info. We could see where our money is going and when - where it went in the past and how to budget for the future.”
- Detailed Financial Planning Information, both online and in-person
“Though you have a lot of topics, they do little to help one with little knowledge to understand what investment path is right for them…Are there different Roth IRA's to chose from? Also there are no calculators to figure future growth of an IRA on your website.”
“Get trustworthy advice and guidance regarding money management for at a reasonable cost or fee. Also, reasonably priced help to consolidate financial situation and organize (maximize) contribution to investments and maximize growth (gains).”
Additional member suggestions included the CU providing: basic information on budgeting; online tools for tracking expenses; and detailed online information and education in the form of online courses. With increased savings awareness due to the current economic environment, members may be more receptive to marketing plans that promote a complete package of online tools, such as email alerts and bill pay. Increased awareness and usage may increase penetration and decrease operating expenses. If not currently available, offering these types of tools may have dual benefits- not only can they potentially help members improve their financial situation but they could also have a positive impact on member satisfaction and loyalty.
The Internet Strategy Consortium is a shared cost research group focused on enhancing the credit union online channel. For more information on joining the Consortium, please contact Denise Senecal at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800-446-7453.