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How Credit Unions Are Reaching Out to Gen Y


Financial institutions know that in order to grow successfully, they need to have a strong presence among America’s youth. NerdWallet’s recent contest encouraged credit unions across the country to dream up innovative new programs to engage younger members, and we learned that many have already made great strides. So what exactly are credit unions doing to reach Gen Y?

Among other things, they hope to gain brand exposure, build technology to help compete with big banks, and give back to their local communities through financial literacy initiatives. Read on to find out more about how credit unions are putting young members first.

CUs at School

One of the easiest ways to capture a young audience is to maintain a presence where they spend the majority of their days: the classroom. Many credit unions work with local schools by offering classroom presentations, seminars and other activities that promote financial literacy.

CUs like Park Community FCU and Educators Credit Union offer classroom presentations on financial topics to local schools. Dakotaland FCU does the same, and partners with the South Dakota Farmers Union to offer students a financial education game called “Real Life Fortune”. In California, Patelco Credit Union was the first credit union to host “Bite of Reality”, a financial literacy simulation for students created by the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation.

Such programs aren’t limited to children either. Many credit unions actively work with high school students to help build financial skills before adulthood.

Vibe Credit Union offers “Financial Fu$ion” sessions to high school juniors and seniors, teaching them about credit and credit scores. Astera Credit Union‘s Financial Literacy Program is a six-week course for high school students presented by Astera staff that covers many important financial concepts. MIDFLORIDA Credit Union meets with leadership groups at local high schools and holds fun events at their branches to help teens get interested in finance. Travis Credit Union focuses on at-risk or underserved high school students with annual Cal Grants informational rallies.

Some credit unions even go the extra mile to offer financial services and employment programs within local schools.  Altra Credit Union has two in-school branches, both of which employ high school juniors and seniors in the Wisconsin Youth Apprentice program. HEW FCU has a satellite branch in H.D. Woodson High School that provides summer internships for students.

Heading to College

As young adults head to college, their financial needs become much more complicated. Students are often living away from home for the first time, and sometimes take on large amounts of debt. To help, many credit unions interact directly with local universities or colleges.

Members First Community Credit Union visits local college campuses to join in their welcome activities and introduce themselves to new students. Pittsburgh Central FCU took part in a Reality Fair for local community college students.

As with high schools, some CUs even operate branches on campus, to offer students easy access to their bank accounts. Teachers FCU has a branch at SUNY Stony Brook, and ATMs at Dowling College and St. Joseph’s College. Charlotte Metro FCU opened a branch at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2011, and has a Student Advisory Board that meets four times a year.

Some of these credit unions offer ways for college students to earn money and on-the-job experience. Tigers Credit Union, located at the University of Missouri, has an internship program that allows students to run the branch and learn about credit union operations. University of Pennsylvania Student FCU is an entirely student-run credit union. Students can start as interns and work up to higher-level positions.

Gen Y at the Credit Union

Reaching a younger population is tough without the products, services, and experiences that they truly care about. That’s why many credit unions offer products catered directly to Gen Y members or provide opportunities for them to take part in credit union operations.

Loans are particularly difficult for many young adults to understand or access, due to lack of experience or a solid credit history. To help solve this problem, SkyOne FCU recently launched their First Timer program, which allows young people with little to no credit history to get an auto loan or credit card by completing a few requirements. Credit Union 1’s NextGen loan program is dedicated to providing Gen Y with a positive first lending experience.

Reaching Gen Y is a two-way street, and credit unions would be missing out if they didn’t take the opportunity to learn from their young members whenever they visit a branch. Eagle One FCU has a Young Professionals Group made up of seven Gen Y-age employees who meet monthly to discuss marketing ideas and strategy. Best Advantage Credit Union has a youth advisory board comprised of students from the local high school. They meet every 4 months to discuss new ideas for the credit union.

Finally, to help local students gain real-world experience, San Francisco FCU offers internships to high school students through the Academy of Finance program.

Credit Unions in the Community

As not-for-profit, member-owned financial institutions, credit unions understand the value of community outreach and many believe in interacting directly with community youth.

Los Angeles Police FCU has made an effort to engage local youth by holding financial education workshops for 13 – 17 year olds. They also have an ongoing video-based rewards program that offers incentives to young members for watching financial education videos. University of Hawaii FCU participates in financial literacy programs and radio events on the university campus. TopLine FCU has a free quarterly trademarked youth financial education series called “Get Smart with Your Money”. They also work with local businesses and organizations to improve financial education for young people in the community. Wakota FCU’s staff volunteers at local schools and libraries. Public Service Credit Union provides financial literacy classes to 16 – 18 year olds in the Detroit Focus: Hope career training program, where they also operate a branch.

Credit Unions Online

As we all know, Gen Y is very active in social media and many credit unions are making strides to engage creatively online. Community 1st Credit Union’s Your Voice blog is designed for 18 – 25 year olds. Their Your Voice spokesperson blogs, posts video and attends community events in person. Mission FCU’s mPower website is aimed at teens and young adults. They have a weekly blog with financial tips from a Gen Y perspective. Georgia Heritage FCU‘s Freedom Club website offers teens financial tips and tools.

Gen Y Is the Future

We’ve covered just a small sample of ways that credit unions are putting time and effort into developing the financial education of Gen Y members. They see the value in ensuring that our younger generations have the skills and smarts to succeed financially and contribute to the ongoing success of their communities.  How is your credit union reaching out?

3D human character holding blue letter Y image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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  • Kristen Christian

    Did this article mean to reference Millennials? Gen Y is the crossover between Gen X & Millennials.

    • NWjohn

      Hi Kristen,
      Some sources refer to both Gen Y and Millennials interchangeably (e.g., so for the purposes of this article we used a broad definition, encompassing anyone from teens to young adults in their mid-twenties. Thanks for reading!

      • Kristen Christian

        If you’re using Wikipedia as your source, that’s your first problem. Being able to be modified by any person with an internet connection it’s an unreliable source. Heck, for a while Bank Transfer Day’s page said that I was part of OWS… which I can personally attest wasn’t & isn’t true.

        The leading experts (Howe & Strauss) dubbed those born 1982-2004 as Millennials when the eldest were entering kindergarten. They later dubbed the crossover as “Gen Y.”