One of the most challenging aspects of my job is that I find it hard to take off my marketing hat when I’m not at work. For example, if I’m out with a group of people, I will not hesitate to check out what credit cards they use to pay their tab and then ask them why they use that particular card. Or, if someone I’m just meeting asks me what I do for a living, I will tell them I work for Verity Credit Union and then ask them if they’ve heard of us. If they haven’t, I usually start off by saying we’re a not-for-profit financial institution…blah, blah, blah. If I’m lucky, this will result in a response that sounds like this: “Not for profit? What do you mean?” Well, I’m so glad you asked.

It’s not that I love talking about work all the time, it’s just that I’ve had enough conversations to realize that credit unions have a real public relations issue on their hands. I rarely come across anyone outside our industry that even knows what a credit union is. The question I hear most often is: Don’t you have to belong to a union to join a credit union? I hear these comments a lot too: “I think my grandpa belongs to a credit union” and “I only use online banking, so a credit union wouldn’t work for me.” OUCH.

Not only do people not know what a credit union is or how it differs from a bank, they think as a whole we are old-fashioned and frumpy and don’t offer innovative or even modern products and services.

I recently attended the YES Summit in San Diego which focused on serving the 18-30 demographic.* We talked about how important it is to be innovative and not just copy what the competition is doing. We had young folks come in and talk to us about their financial needs and how they perceive credit unions. We did a lot of brainstorming and group activities to get our creative juices flowing. And while I learned a lot at YES and came back to work pumped and ready to go get these young whippersnappers, I realized that much of what we discussed can be applied to people of all generations. Being innovative isn’t only going to attract the under 30 crowd. Finding out what people actually need instead of just offering them what everyone else does is going to get us noticed.

I hope that the year 2007 will be one of innovation and fresh ideas and positive changes for us. One of my resolutions for this year is to make this happen, even if it makes my brain hurt.

*Stay tuned for future posts on the Summit.


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