We consider ourselves to be advocates for the credit union industry – we do work for a number of credit union clients across the country, our history starts with credit unions, so… why wouldn’t we advocate for credit unions? They’re the best option for managing your finances!

When your business is something that enriches people’s lives and the alternative is something that, as an industry, tends to not have a consumers bests interests at heart – the choice is simple. In this day and age, it can be hard to have these conversations because they run the risk of turning political. And no one wants that… but should they?

This is a classic dilemma for credit unions. How much do you want to position yourself against banks? We’ve talked about this before, but there is a big and perpetual credit union awareness problem. Recent CUNA research revealed that “40 percent of non-members do not know they can join a credit union.” And, that 64 percent of survey respondents “said they were unaware credit unions were not-for-profit.”

Let’s now look at a number of statistics that reveal a positive period of growth occurred after the global economic crash of 2008.

See the notable uptick in growth at the state level after 2008.

A very serious dip in loan growth for banks while credit union’s loan growth has remained strong and growing following the financial crash.

Then there was Bank Transfer Day that happened in 2011 after Bank of America tried to introduce a fairly ridiculous debit card fee – which led to a large growth spurt for credit unions.

You might be asking yourself: Why is the divide between banks and credit unions not smaller considering what the public knows about banks? They’re not a well-liked industry at all. Why is it that, according to CUNA, “Each of the nation’s four largest banks is larger than the entire credit union movement.

I’m going to paste that four times in all caps just to drive it home:

  • “EACH OF THE NATION’S FOUR LARGEST BANKS IS LARGER THAN THE ENTIRE CREDIT UNION MOVEMENT.”
  • “EACH OF THE NATION’S FOUR LARGEST BANKS IS LARGER THAN THE ENTIRE CREDIT UNION MOVEMENT.”
  • “EACH OF THE NATION’S FOUR LARGEST BANKS IS LARGER THAN THE ENTIRE CREDIT UNION MOVEMENT.”
  • “EACH OF THE NATION’S FOUR LARGEST BANKS IS LARGER THAN THE ENTIRE CREDIT UNION MOVEMENT.”

Well, here’s why I think that is: we, as advocates, can be a little hesitant to be… advocates. And that’s fine! It’s a little awkward to rail against Wells Fargo for setting up 2 million phony accounts to charge their customers more fees.

And yet, these are the conversations credit unions should be trying to start if they wish to see significant growth again. Big bank growth hasn’t halted in a major way even if credit union growth has been steady. There’s no getting around the perception many banks have the funds and size to offer convenience and accessibility that many people don’t immediately see credit unions as being able to offer.

But credit unions have honesty and community above all else. Credit unions are comfortable saying that they have better rates on loans than banks, but it could be time to just start saying that they’re a healthy lifestyle, and big banks are cigarettes. And that people need to stop smoking because it’s not good for you.