Credit unions must improve among non-members

To expand their membership ranks, credit unions must improve awareness--especially among Generation Y and Hispanics--about the advantage of using their products and services, according to the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA's) 2013-2014 National Member and Nonmember Survey Results.

The August edition of Credit Union Magazine provides an in-depth look at the survey findings.

Although credit unions generally have lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and more consumer-friendly fees, 64% of nonmembers say they are "not at all familiar" or "not very familiar" with credit unions.

That figure rises to 71% among nonmembers ages 18 to 24. Notably, only 22% of that segment belongs to credit unions, while one-third of all U.S. adults--97 million--are credit union members.

Credit unions will benefit tremendously if they can mobilize quickly to educate and attract young adults, according to Jon Haller, CUNA's director of corporate and market research.

"You want to be with these members when they start buying homes and cars, opening individual retirement accounts, taking out student loans, and purchasing other financial products and services," Haller said.

Likewise, half of Hispanics surveyed have never heard of credit unions or aren't familiar with them. Only about 22% of Hispanics are credit union members, compared with 35% of blacks and 36% of whites. Only 14% of Hispanics claim a credit union as their primary financial institution.

In contrast to Gen Y, however, many Hispanics are unbanked or underbanked--with 54% having accounts at financial institutions.

When surveying nonmembers about what it would take for them to join a credit union, three prerequisites stand out. In addition to creating better awareness of their products and services, credit unions should provide more convenient branch locations and offer higher interest rates on savings. Each response was favored by 17% of respondents.

Nonmembers also asked that credit unions lower rates on loans (15%) and have lower service charges or fees (13%).

The most difficult nonmembers to attract will be the 23% of respondents who say there's nothing credit unions could do to persuade them to join.