In this difficult economic environment, credit unions are experiencing a variety of challenges in both servicing their existing client base and marketing their investment services programs. As discussed in the 2010 Retail Investment Services Study, market uncertainties are affecting member perceptions of investment options in general. Although the credit union may provide a better offering for members, many credit unions are having difficulties increasing awareness of their program.
Marketing Challenges in Today’s Environment
In addition to overall awareness, member investment concerns are causing shifts on the types of investment products members are interested in. Survey respondents mentioned challenges related to the current economic environment and difficulties with market returns.
“Finding decent interests rates for those looking at fixed investments and safety.”
“Market volatility and economic fear.”
“Economy — it will be difficult to get real returns for clients.”
“Overcoming poor consumer confidence and a doomsday mentality.”
Credit unions are also facing growing pains related to increasing their accounts without decreasing member service. Although some credit unions mention the successful use of referral programs, others are encountering challenges in changing their service culture to a sales-oriented culture with set goals. Another challenge is staffing. Some programs are having difficulty recruiting new staff to service their existing clients.
“Providing a balanced approach to touching all of our investment households.”
The majority of programs are facing sales and support program challenges, which are typically related to calming member concerns in the current environment.
Source: 2010 Retail Investment Services Study
Call volume continues to be up, which is similar to last year’s study. Credit unions are also experiencing increased requests for in-person meetings and increased seminar attendance. However, last year’s turmoil and member services challenges may be reaching an endpoint. Fewer credit unions are reporting a rise in requests to change asset allocations and money movement to CDs/money markets in 2010. It appears most members have already made these changes and are staying with their strategy for now. The data also show the difficulties of gaining new accounts in this type of environment, as one-third of programs are reporting fewer referrals and 27% report fewer new accounts being opened.
Successful Marketing Initiatives
In order to build awareness and take advantage of the anti-bank sentiment that exists today, credit unions should actively position their investment program as an alternative to other providers.
Credit unions need to increase awareness of the credit union program so members are aware of this alternative when they are ready to move funds back to investments. Some credit unions are marketing their program in a variety of ways, including internally focused initiatives such as employee training and referral bonuses as well as external initiatives focused on building awareness.
External marketing programs include detailed cross-channel marketing campaigns, educational efforts through seminars, and targeted segment outreach.
Targeting Marketing to Specific Segments
Credit unions are targeting a variety of segments with their retail investment program marketing. Although it’s not surprising the majority are targeting retirees, others are even targeting members who are earlier in the retirement planning life cycle. Three quarters of the programs are targeting mature professionals (76%), and others are basing their marketing on account balances and the member relationship. A growing number of programs are focusing on building relationships by targeting young professionals (18%).