Tapping the Potential in Boomer Retirements

Boomer retirement represents a great opportunity for credit unions, but how do they compete with the many brokerage firms who have cornered the market?


The massive, 79 million-strong Baby Boomer generation is on the cusp of a monumental transition. This group collectively has an estimated $17 trillion in 401(k) and pension assets and will be looking…into retirement.

Credit unions and banks have both struggled to penetrate this retirement market niche. In the last 16 years, retirement assets for banks have grown less than 1% while those at mutual fund companies have measured greater than 18%.[1] In 2006, brokerages received over 50% of all rollover assets while banking institutions received 20%.[1] When it comes to capturing these types of assets, credit unions are not performing much better than banks. Clearly, brokerage firms become the primary financial institutions of choice for many individuals as they enter retirement. How can credit unions become the first financial institution they turn to instead?

Offer Products and Services Boomers Want
Sitting on the sidelines while members defect to brokerage firms suggests that credit unions are not retaining their position as trusted financial partners as members age. They need to demonstrate that they have the capability to serve members over the entire course of their lives. To do this, credit unions must proactively offer a wide variety services to these members to meet their present, as well as future needs (financial planning, investment services, IRAs, reverse mortgages, trust services, business loans, college funds for their children, etc.)

For a credit union unable to provide these offerings individually, they can form partnerships with trustworthy firms to provide access to a wide variety of options. The credit union can then act as an intermediary, linking their members to the products and services they desire.

John Vardallas, a business strategist who specializes on the Boomer demographic suggests that credit unions can resonate with this generation by positioning themselves as a “one stop concierge financial services center.”

Specifically Targeting Boomers' Values
Vardallas offers this advice, “Use graphics and music when marketing to this group. Boomers are influenced by, and respond positively to cultural nostalgia and memories (i.e. the good old days).” Advertising themes for Boomer campaigns focused on staying young, fulfilling dreams, safety, travel & adventure have a special resonance with this generation.

Marketing Tips:

  • Various studies suggest that Baby Boomers still respond very well to traditional media channels such as print, radio, and television.
  • They are more technologically savvy than today's current retirees, and enjoy the convenience of online banking and bill pay.
  • Younger boomers prefer the web for accessing account balances and researching products, while seniors prefer coming to a branch.
  • Credit unions should leverage their SEG relationships to communicate retirement services:
    • These are unique channels that many other intuitions do not have access to
    • Many companies would welcome the opportunity for a trusted financial institution to provide educational seminars focused on financial planning
  • Focus on demonstrating how your services can simplify their lives and help maximize use of their time

Credit unions that successfully cement long-term relationships with Boomer members by supporting them with excellent member service and personal contact stand to reap additional rewards. Vardallas notes, “Boomers have tremendous influence over their children and their elderly parents, if you get them hooked, they will bring other family members to your institution.” Baby Boomers are the current foundation of the national credit union membership, so now is the time for credit unions to find a way to serve the needs of these members throughout the course of their lives.

More Info
Interested in learning more about how credit unions can effectively reach baby boomers and the services they desire? Callahan hosed a webinar on this topic. John Vardallas was featured on the event, along with several credit union speakers, who discussed successful strategies that they have implemented. View the recording at your leisure.

[1] “Competing in the Retirement-Dominated Future.” BAI Report (2007)
[2] John Vardallas, The American Boomer Group, www.theamericanboomer.com




July 14, 2008


  • (i.e. the good old days).” Advertising themes for Boomer campaigns focused on staying young, fulfilling dreams, safety, travel & adventure have a special resonance with this generation. Good Advice-
    r graf
  • Credit Unions need to be the one stop shop for our members and baby boomers need a trusted financial partner in todays economic times
    d proffitt