Like that crazy uncle whose antics are suspect at best, we try not to talk about our credit union movement’s crazy side very often. You know, if you talk about it, suddenly there it is — on your doorstep. The fact is that we have a collective credit union mission and a power that we don’t leverage near as well as we could. Folks, it’s time to talk about it.
With only a small portion of the overall share of market now for decades, have credit unions missed the opportunity to leverage our cooperative structure to the advantage of our movement, and more importantly, to consumers? It’s worth asking.
Let’s start with the basics. We’re a movement, not an industry. Movements play well throughout history, and certainly in recent times, when society has moved away from institutional icons holding serve to supporting start-ups, the socially responsible and the champions of those historically found on the margins of society. Government, organized religion, education and big business have all been vilified. Credit unions, on the other hand are the antithesis of these bastions of big. We’re in (and of) the community. Ours is a movement helping people. Now is our chance to introduce Credit Unions 2.0.
We’ve been so busy selling products that we’ve missed telling our message and story. Our collective story resonates. While checking accounts and car loans are highly commoditized and highly competitive, we draw our real uniqueness from our giveback. It’s not some corporate, socially responsible program ginned up as a marketing idea. It’s our DNA.
We have this golden goose of sorts in that our mission as a cooperative is to share for the benefit of all. The banks have attacked the goodness of our mission for decades, and you would expect such from their camp. But for us as credit unions to cook the golden goose from the inside out through our silence on a national brand seems almost masochistic.
Timing is everything. Whether you agreed with what went on in the tumult of a hotly contested presidential race, one thing showed itself for sure — we are changing as a nation. Candidates on the left and those somewhere right of that both ignited passions.
I heard it. Did you? We have drifted to a place where young people feel defeated in their opportunity. Will they be the first not to do better than their parents? Are real wages lagging inflation? Their fear of the unknown is our chance to provide stability.
I’m not here to opine, I’m here to ask the hard question. It would appear to me that the market is as poised as ever to hear the credit union message. Social media will carry it. What is the message? Credit unions must not miss this opportunity to further our movement through an audience that is rife with contempt for the traditional. Here we are — now what do we do? A singular voice of who we are has never been needed more.