A glimpse into the mind of a Gen Y’er!

Wow! Let me just start by saying that I am honored to represent the Southeast Region in this national contest. I want to personally extend my thanks and gratitude to those who have supported me, and contributed to this success. I am equally honored to be a credit union champion for Generation Y (Gen Y for short!). This up and coming generation presents a wealth of opportunities for credit unions. To capitalize on this market, credit unions have to be willing to think outside the box. Our generation is completely different from preceding generations, and our expectations can sometimes seem overwhelming. Nonetheless, we are the future of credit unions, and gaining our support now is very important! So, what do you need to know about our generation?

1) We are more loyal than you think

There is a slight misperception that Gen Y’ers won’t be loyal to their financial institutions, because of our disloyalty in other areas. Actually, quite the contrary is true. In observing our own behavior, as well as behaviors of our family and friends, we as a task force found that we are more loyal than you think. Once we establish a relationship with a financial institution, we are more prone to remain there. What matters most to us once we are there is how well we are treated, what products/services are offered, and how you are staying in tune with changes in the industry.

Consider our relationship with Apple. Apple has been one of the premier companies in maintaining an innovative competitive edge. Because of their attention to changes in the industry, and their willingness to be innovative, they are always introducing the latest and greatest product to us. This makes us believe in their brand, and has created a loyalty in our generation. We just saw how well Apple has positioned themselves in the market when they introduced the iPhone 4. Their reputation alone allowed them to get 600,000 pre-orders of the new phone in one day. Wow!

So, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has my credit union developed a plan to reach Gen Y?
  • Is our approach innovative?
  • Do we maintain status quo, or have we created an environment that encourages innovation?

The point I am making is that you should be going after us now. Later will be too late. You should also have a deliberate approach to reaching us. Put on your thinking caps!

2) Image is everything!

Credit unions are starting to understand the importance of strengthening our image both in our brands, and cosmetically. Our generation was raised on images, and we were taught that a good image meant success. We were also taught that a poor image meant the opposite. We have been advertised to the most, and have been directly influenced by the media and entertainment industry. Remember that age old saying “Never judge a book by its cover?” Well, quite the contrary is true in our opinion when deciding where to conduct our business. We are quicker to make a judgment on whether or not we will partner with you based on how you look. Credit unions need to give strong attention to their branch lobbies. Don’t just do enough to get by, but consider your viability in the future. Is your branch layout one that is attractive? Will it make people think you are innovative? Will Gen Y’ers give you a chance? Without a nice looking, forward thinking branch, your chances may be slimmer.

Also, consider your marketing efforts. Now more than ever, your marketing approach has to be very direct, and creative. You need to look at your marketing mix, and make sure that you are involved in things that will reach our generation. Make sure all of your materials are colorful, exciting, and extremely creative. Do not cutback on your marketing efforts, or skim on them at all. If you do that, your voice will be weakened. And, if you are not creative, your message will be overlooked.

I think Currency Marketing is doing a wonderful job at being in touch with how to reach Gen Y’ers. The Young & Free program is great! I think the whole approach is very creative, and one that will work. The sponsoring credit unions’ challenge is to deliver with excellent products, and a good image.

Now, I know you’re thinking Gen Y’ers want everything online. Why should our branch matter? The reason it matters is because we will still use our local branch when conducting loan business, or when we need to have an issue resolved. It is also one of the first things that we see prior to opening our account. While I agree that it is important to have a suite of online services, your branch image is still equally important.

3) We can help your bottom line

One of the main reasons credit unions are reluctant to pursue this audience, is because you believe the products and services we use will not cover the costs to provide them, and make a contribution to the bottom line. First, consider the older segment of Gen Y. Those would be Gen Y’ers around my age. We can be very helpful to your bottom line. I personally have a mortgage, two car loans, and a signature loan. My credit union sees the value in my membership because I have products that make them money, and assist in offering more services to their members. So, there is a segment of Gen Y who can offer a return on your investment immediately. There are also ways to build programs that will make them valuable now, and in the future. That is what we intend to do as a team!

We currently have two ideas being developed now that will empower and equip the next generation. I can’t wait to reveal them to you, but for now I’ll just let the suspense build. Stay tuned for more updates along the way!

Regional Finalist – Southeast