Posts Tagged Gen Y

Building a Young Professional Cooperative Community

Posted by on Monday, 12 September, 2011

Brent Dixon

From Brent Dixon:

The cooperative movement has a problem with aging. Average age of cooperative members and employees is over a decade older than the average age of people in the US and in Canada.

We feel this pain in the credit union industry. The average age of a credit union member is 47, and 75% of credit union board members are over 50.

Because of economic, technological, and cultural changes, financial services – and many other business sectors – have hit what the smart folks at McKinsey & Company call a “Structural Break,” which is:  “…the moment in time- series data when trends and the patterns of associations among variables change.” (via)

What does that mean? It means things have changed and we cannot continue to do things the way they’ve always be done.

If you went to business school you remember the chart that appears with this post on the life-cycle of an industry.

All signs point to credit unions, and many of our cooperative brethren, being right smack on X. This means we can go one of two ways, and have to fight for the future of a model we know is better for our communities. And if we don’t inject new blood, new energy, and new ways of solving problems into our cooperatives, they will die.

We need to recruit and invest in young talent.

At the Filene Research Institute, a think-and-do-tank for credit unions, we learned that the top reasons young people work for credit unions include:

•   The opportunities to influence strategy immediately

•   The opportunity to work with and learn from top leadership from day one

•   The opportunity to help their community

In talking with young people across credit unions, we also learned that because young credit union employees are somewhat rare, many of them feel like an island while at work. They were starved for ways to connect with other like-minded people their age.

Ed Filene, father of the U.S. credit union movement, once said, “Youth is too serious to become obedient.”

That in mind, a group of young credit union people, myself included, decided to take the problem into our own hands. Through a series of small grassroots meet-ups that spun wonderfully out of control, we’ve nurtured and grown The Crash Network, a growing community of close to 200 young credit union professionals. The community is designed to enable:

•   Ongoing connections and support from like-minded people through an online network at

•   Opportunities for professional growth and development through action (One example is: The Collider, an innovation tournament designed to improve the problem of affordable housing).

•   Mentorships with seasoned industry veterans.

A year and a half in and we’ve initiated countless development projects, sparked spin-off youth development organizations across the U.S, piloted a mentorship program, and given a voice to a growing number of young credit union employees who are ready to step up, get their hands dirty, and create the future themselves.  You can watch a short video on some of the voices of The Crash Network here.

We have a lot to learn, and can’t wait for what’s next.

Brent Dixon, Young Adult Advisor for the Filene Research Institute, will be presenting on building a younger cooperative at the upcoming CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference.  This post was originally published for the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA).

Undergrads Want Financial Education – What’s Your Credit Union Waiting For?

Posted by on Monday, 30 August, 2010

Some of the funniest commercials have aired during back-to-school season, like this one from Office Max (my favorite part is the lollipop switched for a magnifying glass).

But while many students roll their eyes at these commercials, others are scratching their heads wondering how the final set of CARD Act rules–which went into effect on August 22nd–will affect their credit accounts.

It’s my opinion that this is a perfect opportunity for credit unions to reach young adults and help them with financial education.  Why?

  1. The CARD Act is arguably the most important financial change to impact this demographic.
  2. Young adults WANT to learn how to better manage their money. According to a recent study by Sallie Mae, 84% of undergraduates said they needed more financial education.
  3. Credit unions that use financial education to guide young adults through these confusing times will gain their loyalty in return.

It’s that second point that’s most interesting… the average undergraduate senior leaves college with $4,100 in credit card debt AND wishes they had known more about managing credit and their finances. That’s where credit unions can make an impact with this demographic; by providing the desired financial education using relevant communication channels.

This is the main reason I’m psyched about my role here at CUNA. I get to help credit unions provide valuable financial information to my demographic using relevant methods such as the Web and in-person seminars.

We all know using a credit card isn’t difficult. It’s HOW to use a credit card that gets tricky. And that’s what I wanted to convey to folks my age with the video I produced for our new Seminar In A Box aimed at those starting out in life.  (Credit 101: Do You Pass the Test will be released this fall.)

Jeremy was awesome, and very candid. I wanted him to tell his story and offer advice based on his experience with credit. Hearing that message and discussing the situation with peers goes a long way and I think it amplifies the rest of the information presented throughout the seminar.

Check out this shortened version of the video…

Jeremy shares more compelling stories in the longer version that’s sure to resonate with the intended audience… like the story about his roommate’s use of credit, his episode with collections, how his credit problems affected his college career, and some advice based on his experiences.

Now it’s your turn… am I off base? Do you think young adults are a lost cause for credit unions? Are there better ways to reach them and gain their loyalty? I have lots to say about this subject–too much for one post–so let’s keep this conversation going!

Live From The 1: Youthful Products for a Younger Membership

Posted by on Monday, 12 July, 2010

Viva Las Vegas! I’m excited to be blogging live from the 1 Credit Union Conference in Las Vegas with Courtney and Meghann over the next couple days. We’ll be posting some highlights and takeaways from key sessions right here on CUNAverse (Note, they’ll be a little looser than our usual posts). Also, for more live conference coverage, you can check out News Now’s updates, CU Grow, and of course a twitter search of the conference hashtag #the1cuconf for real-time information from conference-goers.

This morning I had the pleasure of introducing Brent Dixon, Young Adult Advisor at Filene Research Institute (USA), and Ross Lambrick, Regional Manager at Credit Union Australia (Australia), for a very relevant and important session – “Youthful Products for a Younger Membership.”

Ross kicked off the packed session with information on the demographic and the current Australian environment. For example, Gen Z, Y and X together make up 61% of the Australian population but only 20% are credit union members.

What I found most interesting were his examples of what both banks and credit unions are doing right in Australia. Highlights:

  • Bendigo Bank partnered with a college to mentor students which exposes them to issues and practices in the finance industry as career development.
  • Commonwealth Bank has a vision to have every child be financially literate – they offer and extensive school banking and financial literacy program.
  • Community First Credit Union has an online greeter, Lisa,  you can interact with on their website.

What do Gen X & Y want from their financial institution?

  • Convenience
  • Control
  • Problem resolution
  • Friendly, courteous and knowledgeable staff
  • Interested in the values of the brand they buy

Ross ended with his creed – “Change the life of a member for the better.”

Brent opened it up with the landscape – “credit unions need Gen Y.” Highlights: 

  • 47 is the average age of membership
  • From 1985-2005, Gen Y members declined

So what do you do? Cosmetics aren’t the answer and it’s not just about being “edgy.” You need an oustanding product to begin with – master the basics first.

Some successful product ideas he mentioned:

  • Give your product a customizable face
  • Debit card rewards
  • Prize-based savings
  • First credit cards (relationships last on average 15 years) are key. Hint: market to parents.

Think Twitter and social media is just about what people had for lunch? Wrong. Twitter can also be used for real change and political action in places like Iran.

It’s also changing our idea of “now” and we’re always “on.” He mentioned a statistic that 48% of people check online activity when waking up in the middle of the night. What can your credit union do? You need to listen and interact with members in real-time because it is becoming the expectation.

For your content to go viral (or to even be watched), you need to be original, creative, emotional, and awe-inspiring. Luckily, credit union stories are all of those things.

The Golden Circle Concept for Credit Unions – Start with Purpose

Posted by on Thursday, 17 June, 2010

I love convergences. About a month ago I found myself at the Wisconsin Credit Union League Annual Meeting where some friends at Filene were giving a general session on opportunities for credit unions. In Young Adult Adviser Brent Dixon’s section, he talked about the Golden Circle concept and its relevance for credit unions. It was a simple yet profound idea.


Driving back to Madison from the League meeting, I was listening to random TED talks and one of them happened to be on – you guessed it – the Golden Circle concept. The talk is from Simon Sinek and titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” I recommend checking it out sometime and sharing with your co-workers.

> Click Here to Watch/Hear the Full TED Talk

The gist is this: people connect with leaders and brands who they think share their beliefs – the cause (or the “why?”) in the center of the circle above. Too often, credit unions and organizations in general start with the outside of the circle in their messaging.

“We provide financial products & services (what?) via branches in the Madison area or online (how?) because we are a non-profit cooperative financial institution (why?)”

Sound familiar? Now turn it around:

“We believe that you should own your money and your financial institution, not shareholders. We believe in people helping people and our financial products/services reflect that. We do this because we are a non-profit cooperative financial institution.”

When I talked with Brent about this recently, he had this to add:

If you market based on the “what” you are a commodity. As soon as the terms of that commodity changes  (and we know they will change) – lower deposit rates, dropping free services to stay afloat, cutting back on branch hours – the market will leave too.

But if you market based on “why” – they will stay, because they believe in your purpose, and, because this goes beyond altruism, they will stay because they know that no matter what, you will fight to keep their best interest at the heart of your decisions.

Communicating and acting on purpose drives gut decisions that change behaviors.

Powerful stuff, yet we start the “what” all too often – professionally and personally.

>CCUC09 Redux – Young Board Members Important to CU Sustainability

Posted by on Friday, 4 December, 2009

>When young adults enter the credit union conversation, the focus is typically on how to attract and retain them as members.

But what about young folks as board members?
One of the most important aspects to the future of credit unions, the impact of adding young board members to the mix is often overlooked.
Not at CUNA, of course.
That’s why we had Ben Rogers from the Filene Research Institute to discuss this very topic during CUNA’s 2009 Community Credit Union & Growth Conference in Las Vegas.
Watch as Ben reviews the highlights of his presentation…

The topic was also addressed during CUNA’s 2007 YES Summit. Justin Ho, board member for USC Credit Union at the time, presented how his involvement had made things better for his credit union.

Take a trip via Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and check out this post from our archives for more info on Justin’s presentation.
You may notice a comment from one Brent Dixon… whose socks were apparently blown off at some point.

>CCUC09 Live – Serving Gen Y… and Lunch

Posted by on Friday, 23 October, 2009

>There are only a few things I like better than eating lunch. One of them is sharing information and ideas with credit union folks about better serving/attracting young adults WHILE eating lunch.

And that’s exactly what happened this afternoon.

There were three “Lunch and Learn” sessions today, each with their own individual topic. Each addressed serving specific demographics–Hispanics, emerging markets, and young adults. And I was fortunate enough to facilitate the young adult session.

The 20 or so attendees were excellent. They shared ideas, frustrations, best practices, and a few laughs as we dove into almost all aspects surrounding credit unions and serving those just starting out in life. Our discussion lasted almost the entire hour and thirty-minutes and (luckily) ended before the after-lunch energy lull kicked in.

During the session I jotted down some notes and thought I’d share them with you… see below!

>Employees: The Other Side of Young Adult Recruiting

Posted by on Monday, 5 October, 2009

>As credit unions have started to confront the decline in young adult membership, most of the conversation revolves around getting new members through the door.

It’s easy to consider the search for young adult gains, however, as a marketing challenge. Tweak the products and get the right message out, and everything will be better, right? Yes, for a while.
A little deeper into the challenge you’ll find a thorny HR problem. Young adults don’t want to work at credit unions. They certainly don’t object on principle, but credit unions are just not on their employment radar.

Consider Filene’s late 30 Under 30 group. Of these two and a half dozen rising credit union stars, not one had considered working for a credit union before they landed their first job at one. Once they did, however, many of them were hooked.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that, according to recent Filene research, employees younger than 30 and those with higher levels of education are less committed to credit unions. The causes of that disconnect are unclear, but if you can’t get future leaders to buy in, how do you get your membership to buy in?

So what’s a credit union to do to attract next year’s shining stars?

Here are four places to start:

1. Get on campus.
Whether at a job fair, through the career resources office, or working directly with professors in classrooms, credit unions almost everywhere need to raise awareness. Nearly 70% of interns receive full-time job offers upon completion of their internships, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. If you’re not offering an internship, you may never even see many of the best students.
2. Cater to them (to a point).
As with sales, recruiting needs to emphasize the benefits to the prospect. A recent Net Impact/Aspen Institute national survey of MBA students showed that three factors far outpaced all others when candidates were asked to name what’s most important in a job:
  • Work/life balance (56%)
  • Challenging and diverse job responsibilities (51%)
  • Compensation (49%)
It’s not possible to reset the credit union’s professional needs, but it is important to emphasize — for MBAs, college grads, or any prospective young professional — how the credit union is competitive on these three fronts.
3. Emphasize social responsibility.
Doing right by customers and contributing to the community is increasingly important among young professionals. The fourth most important employment factor from the survey above was “potential to contribute to society” at 32%. If priorities one through three are in place, credit unions have a clear case to make around social responsibility. In a private survey commissioned by Filene, credit unions were identified as the second most responsible financial institutions, behind only microfinance non-profits like and Grameen Bank. Not everybody gets excited about social responsibility, but for those that do, it’s a key differentiator.
4. And if you’re credit union is in one of these 10 cities, you’ve got a little recruiting head start.

Ben’s session A Seat at the Table: Young Adult Directors and Board Advisors will be one of three break out sessions held on Friday, October 23rd from 10:15 am – 11:30 am at the upcoming CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

>Can Wesabe’s Springboard Propel Delta Community CU Young Adults?

Posted by on Thursday, 30 April, 2009

>Recent news, and a smattering of blog posts, indicate that mixing real-time money management with personal finance tools has become somewhat of a reality.

Delta Community Credit Union and Wesabe announced a partnership on Apirl 28th to deliver Wesabe’s SpringboardTM to DCCU members. Springboard, as the press release explains, “… gives consumers a “smart” dashboard view of their account data and personal finances – guiding them towards value, savings and goal completion, and away from poor financial decisions.”

I’m not familiar with exactly how DCCU and Wesabe’s new toy works or how good the tools and personal finance information really are. But it sure sounds as if the partnership will address two major issues that are important to young adults like me.

  1. Ease of use – Budgeting software and other money management tools can be very complicated and difficult to use. (This is a major reason we developed EasyBudget for MoneyMixTM… to simplify budgeting for young adults.) Often times budgeting software contains confusing options, loads of irrelevant input fields, and unfamiliar jargon.

    Human error also makes things interesting. In my experience using budgeting software, I’ve often wondered if I’ve entered the correct information and how accurate projections really were. I’ve also experienced the joy of watching errors pop up as I reconcile the software with my online account… not a good feeling after painstakingly entering in your information.

    The solution here is to offer simple instructions, relevant guides, and pull account information directly from the credit union. My understanding is that DCCU & Wesabe’s collaboration will make this happen.

  2. Accessible to me - I’m part of the Gen Y crowd that’s “always” connected to the internet (remember, not all of us are internet junkies). Online banking has always appealed to me. Even though there haven’t been any security breaches yet, I’ve never really trusted online budgeting Web sites… I’d prefer to keep my finances firmly planted behind the firewalls of my credit union.

    A partnership such as DCCU and Wesabe engenders trust because, as far as I’m concerned as a user, the tools are part of the credit union.

    Even if I were to use a site to help manage my finances, I still need to log into my account and make adjustments. Integrating my online account with personal finance tools means I’m more likely to actually do what the tools suggest. I’m one step closer to clicking a button and acting upon my decision.

So, Springboard sounds great on paper and there’s a lot of potential. I’ll be anxious to hear how well this works for DCCU. I certainly applaud them for offering the service to their members. It’s the kind of service that will appeal to young adults and impact other demographics as well.

At the very least this partnership demonstrates that integrating real-time money management with personal finance tools is possible, and it’s only a matter of time before someone perfects it.

>Insight or Claptrap?

Posted by on Monday, 6 April, 2009

>In the April 3 issue of Engage:Gen Y, “a newsletter dedicated to exploring this exciting demographic made up of individuals ages 18 to 30,” Chip Walker celebrates the admirable uniqueness of capitalism’s favorite demographic.

In the course of this paean, Walker makes some extraordinary generalizations, which readers might be forgiven for mistaking for claptrap. For example, how does this claim:

“Among GenYers’ most important personal values are authenticity, altruism and community.”

Compare with this statistic?

Volunteers by selected characteristics (age), September 2008

Age % of population
16 to 24 years 21.9
25 to 34 years 22.8
35 to 44 years 31.3
45 to 54 years 29.9
55 to 64 years 28.1
65 years and over 23.5

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Division of Labor Force Statistics

Looks like the under 35s have the worst record of any age group for service to community. Sure, it’s only one measure of altruism, but I have to wonder if Gen Y is as adept as “self-mythologizing” as the notoriously narcissistic Baby Boomers.

Walker claims that Gen Y’s penchant for activism is different from that of their over-the-hill parents. “For today’s Gen-Yers, activism is not about rebelling against institutions — there’s simply not that much left to rebel against.”

What? With daily revelations of corruption at the highest levels of government and corporate leadership, Gen Y can’t find enough injustice to get up off the couch to protest? (Or did the Boomers clean everything up?)

Finally, consider this: “Gen Y-ers don’t just want to buy brands, they want buy in to what a brand believes in.” That kind of gullibility just means we can look forward to replenishing the pool of prospective Ponzi victims in the future, when the materialistic and self-deluded Boomers finally step aside.

>Layaway Loans?

Posted by on Tuesday, 25 November, 2008

>I was delighted to read recently that layaway plans at retailers are making a comeback:

Layaway grew out of the Great Depression, where consumers could set aside goods they wanted and make regular installments until the debt was paid and they got to take the goods home.

The concept got shoved to the back of the storeroom in the 1980s, as easy credit begot a get-it-now, pay-later consumer culture. In recent years, retailers have put gift cards and their own profitable credit card rewards programs at center stage, turning layaway into an expensive, space-hogging, antiquated service.

> Read the full article here.

Layaway is good – unlike credit cards, you are working forward financially towards a goal instead of backwards. There is also less temptation to buy something now and think about how you are going to pay for it later. For young adults, this could be a whole new paradigm.

One thing that really excited me in the article was this new online development:

More than 1,200 merchants have turned to eLayaway, including Brookstone, Gap, Dell, HP, Apple Store and Bass Pro Shops. Two as-yet unnamed big-box retailers will become part of eLayaway’s virtual mall “very soon,” said Michael Bilello, senior vice-president of business development of the Tallahassee, Fla.-based technology company.

Like traditional in-store layaways — which have fees and cancellation penalties — customers of eLayaway pay a 1.9 percent transaction charge. Shoppers can stretch payments for three months to a year. Payments are automatically withdrawn electronically, and once the item is paid off, it’s shipped to the customer’s home.

If you check out the eLayaway site, they have a pretty attractive line on the homepage – “Debt-free credit building at its best!” And if you click around, you’ll see pretty much anything and everything.

What does this mean for credit unions? Consider a “layaway loan” to members - basically a loan in reverse. For loans for relatively small sums of cash, this could be a way to curb rising debt and boost responsible money management.

Out of curiousity, I did a quick Google Search for “layaway loan” and naturally there are already a few credit unions doing something similar (no banks…):

Think about it – in these economic times, this is another way for credit unions to leverage their difference by offering something….different.