They pass you on the street, come into your branches, work in the same building, or might be eating dinner across the table from you this very evening. And yet, here you are, reading an article about reaching the very people that surround you everyday.
There is so much advice devoted to this topic that it will make your head spin, and while Gen Y shares many similarities as a group, there are local dynamics and trends that are unique to your region. While you are busy burrowing through generic Gen Y material, you may be ignoring your most valuable resource. If you actually want to know about the financial needs of younger individuals and what appeals to them…..just ask.
3 Different Strategies for Leveraging the Youth Around You
Each of these credit unions has sought advice directly from members of Gen Y. They have used the insight they gained to adjust existing products and services, develop new ones, and to determine which channels work most effectively to reach this group.
Look at Your Fellow Employees
Silver State Schools CU
Silver State formed a focus group of 16 existing employees between the ages of 18 and 26. This group was put together by the marketing department and met once in mid-2007. This session lead to the development of 'MyAccount' which has specific features (lower opening balance requirements, more free foreign ATM transactions, reward points, etc) designed to meet the needs of high-school and college students. The credit union is planning another focus group in 2008 and is considering the creation of a more permanent group to advise the board based upon their initial success. 
Gain Insight from Existing Members & Your Local Community
As part of an effort to respond to goals laid out in an ambitious 10 year plan, 66 began engaging local college students in a monthly interactive dialogue. Each meeting offers free food and the chance for young people to have their voice heard. The credit union approached local business-related classes with the message: “We want your opinion.” They have no trouble gathering at least 10-15 individuals together each month at casual locations like the local bowling alley or a popular pizza parlor. The structure is intentionally informal and led to the development of an open and successful dialogue.
Pacific Service CU
This credit union convenes a "Young Adult Council" each quarter. The credit union provides food and refreshments and pays each participant $25-$50 for their attendance. The credit union asked for volunteers on their website, posted notices in branches, and contacted members who had expressed interest in volunteer opportunities for their children. The group is renewed primarily based upon word-of-mouth referrals, and Pacific Service is considering expanding the group from 6 to 10 or more participants. 
- Many high school and college students are always looking for unique experiences to become involved with that will build their resume, don't forget to position these focus groups or advisory roles as such.
- Many professors and teachers look for an excuse to get their students involved in something outside the classroom, and might be willing to offer extra credit to students who are willing to participate.
Create a Gen Y Position Within the Credit Union
As an integral component in their effort to attract younger members, Wright-Patt created a new position, the Marketing Representative for Young Adults, and set out to fill it with a fresh May '07 college graduate. The credit union approached the business faculty at Wright State University, explained the position, and asked the faculty if they could recommend candidates for the position. This approach was successful and they hired Dustin Limburg, who has been working closely with the university and local area high schools to improve the credit union's appeal to younger members. A Gen Y member on staff who is focused on appealing to his peers offers a fresh perspective for the credit union management, and gives Wright-Patt leg up on this segment compared to other financial institutions in the area.
If you are serious about attracting younger members, I think that one of the easiest, most cost-effective steps you can take is to get direct feedback from the younger members of your workforce, community, or family. You have nothing to lose, and only valuable insight to gain.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I will be hosting the upcoming webinar: The Gen Y Opportunity: Attracting and Retaining Younger Members . This event will feature credit union speakers (including 66 FCU) who have found ways to successfully reach Gen Y through a variety of channels. I will also be joined by a Gen Y panel, allowing you to hear first-hand feedback from the individuals you are trying to reach.
1. Rogers, Ben, “Young Adult Advisors” Filene Research Institute (2008).