I feel like this “lack of Gen Y credit union members” thing has been beaten to death in print and at industry conferences. But, no matter how much it gets talked about, only a small group of progressive credit unions have actually done anything to tackle the issue head on.
According to the Credit Union National Association, the average age of an American credit union member is 47, and according to Credit Union Central of Canada, the average age of a Canadian credit union member is 54. Considering the average age of a North American is 35, these are sobering statistics.
So why are credit unions north and south of the 49th parallel missing the Gen Y boat?
The problem and the solutions go well beyond branding and marketing.
Who is This Elusive Gen Y?
In broad strokes, members of Gen Y are 18 to 32 in 2012. They are socially conscious, tech savvy and they distrust companies and media. They are confident but wary, have a practical world view, are goal-oriented and respect parents and education. They were raised on texting and instant messaging, and social networking is part of their lives. They spend to have fun, respond to truthful advertising and are disdainful of image and hype. And, unfortunately, they could care less about your credit union.
This matters because, at 76 million people, Gen Y is now the largest generation ever in the United States, eclipsing even the baby boomers. Credit unions essentially skipped a generation—at only 50 million U.S. citizens, Gen X was a blip on the demographic radar as credit unions thrived off the boomers. But reality has hit: Boomers have started to retire and pass away and credit unions have done a very poor job educating young adults on the benefits of credit union membership.
Educate, Educate, Educate
The irony is that credit unions and Gen Y have a lot in common; Gen Y just doesn’t know it yet. Almost three quarters of Gen Y have no idea what a credit union is. According to CUNA’s 2011-2012 Survey of Potential Members, 69 percent of consumers ages 18 to 24 are “not at all familiar” with credit unions. And to confound things further, a recent study by Ron Shevlin of the Aite Group concluded that only 5 percent of Gen Y will consider a credit union the next time they need a financial product. That’s only one out of 20 young adults who will even think to put a credit union on the consideration list of potential financial institutions when thinking about a checking account, car loan or credit card.