5 Credit Union Growth Strategies
ORLANDO ---- While banks hold about 92% of the market share, Laura Vann, vice president of shared branching for Credit Union Service Centers of Alabama, sees this as huge opportunity for credit union growth.
What fuels growth, industry research shows, is not simply offering low rates and fees. Rather, growth is about focusing on your members by providing competitive products, including niche products that are different from competitors, always delivering outstanding service and fulfilling a specific community need that resonates with staff and members, deepens brand awareness and attracts new members, Vann said during her Credit Union Growth Strategies presentation for directors Wednesday at the Southeast Credit Union Conference and Expo at the Grand Lakes in Orlando.
Here are five insights from Vann’s presentation on how credit unions can pursue growth:
Finding a Niche
One of the factors common to credit unions who have experienced high levels of asset growth is that they have found a niche in their marketplace. It’s about looking at what products and services your credit union is offering and finding a way to tweak a product or service to make it different from what your competitors are offering, Vann said. Member feedback, the most useful information source for guiding your credit union’s growth strategy, may give you some ideas on how to be different in your marketplace and how to design products and services to meet the needs of members. Sources for member feedback include surveys, member advisory panels, focus groups, member product and delivery channel use, account balances per member and reports about membership growth. To get more insights about how to accomplish this, Vann recommended the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant.”
The best way for credit unions to increase their lending it to make lending central to their mission. While successful lenders have committed and enthusiastic employees that support and implement the credit union’s lending strategies and goals, they also leverage research to know their members, their nonmembers and their community. It’s also important for credit unions to make it easy for members to apply for loans through a fast loan application process followed by quick decisions. If that’s lacking, members will go elsewhere to get their next loan. What’s more, by working with a CUSO, a credit union can expand loan services while minimizing additional risk.
Attracting and Retaining Members
Strategies used by high growth credit unions include using humor in advertising, recruiting and training personable, service-oriented employees, particularly for front-line office positions, becoming involved in the community that can build brand awareness and focusing on youth outreach through scholarships and other specialized programs. Other factors that can anchor member loyalty include committing to resolving a member’s problems in a reasonable amount of time, maintaining trust that the credit union has the member’s best interests at heart and appreciates the member’s business, always delivers excellent quality services and provides good overall value.
Growing credit unions invest in research to find out about their members and nonmembers that can lead to opportunities to deepen relationships. It also helps to have market research conducted by an external agency instead of an in-house marketing team because it can help minimize biases. Growing credit unions also are always looking out for new, more profitable products and routinely reviewing and removing non-performing products.
Making a Difference
While supporting the traditional charities such as the United Way, the American Heart Association or the March of Dimes are all worthy causes, credit unions should consider supporting a specific need in their community that no other organization is stepping up to fulfill. It can be a cause that will not only resonate with employees, but with members and prospective members as well. The $766 million Alabama Credit Union in Tuscaloosa, for example, supports Secret Meals for Hungry Children that began in 2008 in partnership with local food banks. On Fridays, nutritional meals are discretely packed into children’s backpacks. The goal of the program is to decrease the number of children in Alabama and Florida facing hunger over the weekend.