“Advertising for most financial institutions, including credit unions, is geared toward things that might not be very interesting, like loan rates and checking account products,” says Carl Casper, vice president of customer advocacy at Connex Credit Union ($399.3M, North Haven, CT).
So then what can credit unions do to speak to Gen Y? Knowing the best way to compete in a crowded financial service environment is to be different, Connex created a vice president of unbanking position in 2010 to oversee its Gen Y-tailored advertising, social media, and branded content initiatives.
“We’re different from a bank,” Casper says. “We don’t call it banking here; we call it unbanking. This role embodies what it means to be a part of that unbanking culture.”
CU QUICK FACTS
CONNEX CREDIT UNION
data as of 12.31.13
HQ: North Haven, CT
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.54%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.12%
A Role That Benefits The Student
Connex’s vice president of unbanking is a paid internship that is available to local college students, mainly those entering their junior year. The VP’s primary responsibility is to work Connex’s social media channels — under the direction of the director of marketing — to drive viewership of and engagement with the credit union’s content.
Interns are not goaled like the typical credit union employee, but they do have stated objectives to drive new member adoption of Connex’s Facebook page and increase traffic to its blog. Such goals are easier to set than to achieve, but the VPs of underbanking have turned out impressive results. For example, according to Casper, Connex’s blog typically receives approximately 500 hits every month. This past January, however, a few shrewd, relevant posts from the acting VP of unbanking nearly tripled traffic. That month, the site recorded some 1,400 hits.
And although Casper admits the credit union could focus more on its Twitter presence, its Facebook likes have grown 60% since 2011. Its page now has nearly 1,500 likes.
To recruit the best VP candidates, Connex targets the five universities that are located close to its New Haven headquarters. And although it does not look for specific degree tracks, it does look for certain qualities, such as writing skills, speaking skills, and an ability to think on one’s feet. These soft skills are an important component of the internship because the VP of unbanking responds to Facebook posts and monitors social channels. The credit union wants a representative who is resourceful enough to figure out correct answers and articulate enough to communicate those answers when a member has a question.
Connex hires its VP of unbanking to work during the traditional fall-through-spring academic school year — however, the credit union does not expect interns to work through scheduled school holiday breaks. And before the spring semester of one year ends, Connex identifies several candidates who are available to begin working the following fall semester. This schedule allows the credit union to evaluate its candidates during the summer months when they have more freedom and availability.
Although the primary responsibilities of the vice president of unbanking revolve around driving social media viewership and engagement, the internship also provides the ability to work with the entire marketing department, which exposes the student to some of the broader, more traditional, departmental processes and procedures.
According to Casper, the credit union would like to transition its interns to a full-time position after they graduate, but the credit union is a small shop, 107 employees, with finite financial resources. So the credit union concentrates on offering a practical experience wherein VPs can show work they’ve produced and demonstrate real-world skills they’ve developed.
“The job market is tough for folks that age,” Casper says. “Having something on their resume where they can show future employers what they’ve done is pretty powerful.”
A Role That Benefits The Industry
Although the credit union uses what resources it has to segment members and mine data, it is currently working on an upcoming core conversion that will help it further identify the habits of Gen Y, understand their impact on the credit union balance sheet, and, most importantly, better connect with them.
“We are a 75-year-old credit union,” Casper says. “And we are starting to see some traction among the younger generation, which is great.”
Students who complete the internship graduate the program with advanced technical skills and a better appreciation of the credit union mission. They can use this new knowledge to further their own careers, careers that hopefully remain in the credit union realm.
“You look around the room at some of these leadership meetings, and people are getting older,” Casper says. “People are getting ready to retire. We need the next generation of leadership. If in some small way we can contribute with this position, then we’ve achieved our overall mission.”