Maintaining the Momentum of Transfer Day
Now that the dust has settled from Bank Transfer Day and credit unions are basking in the glow of unprecedented new member numbers, the industry is faced with the question of “now what?” Unfortunately for credit unions, Bank Transfer Day doesn’t occur every Saturday. The next movement, Balance Transfer Day, encourages consumers to transfer credit card balances to local credit unions but doesn’t appear to have the same type of public and media support. As a result, credit unions need to identify methods to keep the spotlight on them and keep member growth momentum going.
According to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the nation’s largest credit union advocacy group, credit unions added 40,000 new members on Nov. 5 and 650,000 new members during the month leading up to Bank Transfer Day. Locally, Portland-area credit unions reported growth on November 5 and the weeks leading up to it.
Can credit unions expect these numbers to stay consistent? Probably not. While the big banks have backed down on the proposed fee changes that spurred the Transfer Day movement, some customers who were on the fence about switching to a credit union will likely now stay with their bank to avoid the anticipated hassle of switching.
The key to sustaining the growth at credit unions is going to be education and outreach – for new members and potential members. Even with all of the media coverage surrounding Transfer Day, there’s still a good portion of the population that doesn’t have a clue as to what a credit union is and how they can become a member. As for the thousands of new members, credit unions should be shouting from the rooftops about the services that they provide to prevent their new members from keeping their Visa and mortgage at the bank and only transferring their checking account to the credit union. Additionally, they should be working to provide an easy and user-friendly account opening process online. The thought of switching from a bank seems time-consuming and stressful to most people. Why not make it quick, easy and available online and through mobile applications? Credit unions should also be promoting their shared branching and ATM accessibility. One of the biggest hurdles to joining a credit is the misconception that they are not easily accessible, but with over 6,700 shared branch locations and 28,000 credit union ATM’s available to members throughout the country, it shouldn’t still be an issue.
As the Transfer Day coverage subsides, big banks will still have budgets that allow for professionally produced commercials and print ads in every paper, but there’s no reason credit unions can’t continue to take a grassroots approach to educating members and potential members about their efforts to better the community. If the Transfer Day and the recent Occupy movements taught us anything, it’s that people truly care about the financial health of their community on the local level. Credit unions were based on a cooperative notion and are driven by the philosophy of “people helping people.” They have quietly been improving their communities for years through volunteer projects, food drives and fundraising and giving efforts.
Now is the time to take to the blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter updates and community events and work to spread the message of the credit union difference for both the community and for the local economy. The momentum has been started for credit unions, and with the right education and outreach plan, credit unions can keep it going well beyond November 5.