Credit Union Industry Trends to Watch: The Way of the Future is an Upward Trend

It’s long been known that credit unions can rank higher than other financial institutions when it comes to local member satisfaction. And, as more locations continue to open across the nation, is it any coincidence?

In today’s economic environment, the public is looking for a more personalized banking experience with customized options, unique possibilities, innovative technology and proactive services. Credit unions fulfill that need by providing stronger local opportunities than are available with traditional financial institutions. “The happiness of our members is our number one priority and we are constantly searching for ways to reinvent ourselves to address their needs and the change in the local environment,” said Ralph D. Spencer, Jr., Suffolk Federal President and CEO. Suffolk Federal is one of the largest credit unions in Suffolk County, New York with 10 branches, over 60,000 members and assets in excess of $1 billion.

Reasons why the public prefers banking with a credit union and why credit union industry trends are showing favorable responses can be explained as follows:

Personal Service
Member relationships are the heart of what makes this form of banking different than your traditional, big brand repository. Often localized and referring to members by name, credit unions pride themselves on loyalty and proactive service. They are committed to focusing on the member and making the most of in-branch experiences.

Community Involvement
Local credit unions are committed to the locations where they do business and support the local communities to ensure they remain vibrant and strong. For example, one of the focuses of Suffolk Federal has been on building and maintaining local relationships to support Suffolk County. In 2018, Suffolk Federal celebrated a successful year with an array of meaningful member outreach, events and promotions, which raised part of the nearly $100,000 dollars contributed to local nonprofits and charitable organizations focused on specific causes on Long Island.

Competitive Member Loans
Credit unions offer many benefits and incentives for their members including lower average loan rates on new and used car loans, personal unsecured loans, first mortgage loans, home equity loans and credit card loans. Credit unions also pay members higher than average dividends on savings, checking, money market accounts, certificate accounts and IRAs. Since a credit union is a not-for-profit organization, they do not try to maximize their profits or serenade the stockholders. Instead, members receive the earnings back in terms of low interest loans, high savings interest and other benefits.

Committed to Small Business
With credit unions, the commitment is to support the members and local business, so loans and money stay within the community which, in turn, supports “Main Street” businesses. Credit unions can also be a little more flexible than traditional banks when a small business requests a loan and will consider certain factors which does not always factor into a credit decision.

Attracting the Younger Generation
The focus to attract the younger generation seems to be tied into the increased use of technology. To appeal to younger generation who seems to now be focused on building strong money foundations for themselves, credit unions are constantly exploring reinvention. Many have switched over to the use of increased technology including online banking and apps. According to CUInsight.com, over half of baby boomers access digital banking from a laptop or computer with more than two thirds of millennials doing so from the comfort of their cell phones.

Technology
Credit unions are responding to the importance of digital and mobile transformation and are becoming more technological friendly. “Across our 10 locations, we continue to see an increase in the use of our digital-based services including our mobile banking platform and electronic budget tools,” Spencer explains. In response, Suffolk Federal has redesigned its website which now provides members a streamlined design with efficient functionality, several state-of-the-art enhancements and a mobile responsive, user-friendly experience. Innovative user options provide exceptional member service and offer faster and easier access to useful tools, resources, information and online services.

Sustainability & Environmentally Friendly Business Practices
Another trend on the rise for credit unions is the implementation of environmentally-friendly and sustainable business practices. Suffolk Federal recognized the importance of the sustainability trend and recently installed clean energy solar panels on the branch rooftops of Medford, Riverhead and Islandia in order to become more environmentally responsible.

Financial Education, Resources, Scholarships, Perks and Tools:
Credit unions also offer a variety of financial education, perks and resources for its members. Suffolk Federal, for example, empowers its membership by offering a unique financial counseling service through their strategic partnership with GreenPath, a financial counseling and education organization program. Other advantages include access to such items as innovative app tools, seminars, programs to encourage savings, scholarship opportunities and much more. The credit union is also committed to assisting their members with ongoing issues with credit safety. For example, responding to concerns over identity theft, the credit union now offers members CardLock and CardValet, which place complete debit and credit card control, fraud mitigation and security in members’ hands. When used together with Suffolk Federal’s Digital Wallet, members receive an extra level of security.

In conclusion, industry trends overall show that people are becoming more and more enthusiastic with doing business with a credit union as traditional financial institutions become more rigid, larger and tougher to navigate. The key focus for credit unions is their commitment to member service since the bank is funded and managed by its membership base and in today’s environment, that customer service can be an invaluable and welcome asset.

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