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May 10, 2012

How Often Does "Co-Op" Come Up?


by Ron Daly 

I was at a meeting the other night where Randy Smith from CUinsight was the speaker. He was talking about the importance of local relevance and community building for CUs. One of the things he brought up was the idea of the credit union as a cooperative. With more and more people buying into the idea of a local economy, why not talk up your virtues as a cooperative institution? After all, you're likely serving a certain small area in your state...you're as local as money gets. 

2012 is the International Co-Operative Association's  Year of the Co-Operative. I've read a lot about this in the trades and I've heard a lot about it from the "Net-Set" (my nickname for social media savvy CU folks). But as a credit union member? I haven't heard that much about it. I only know what I've gone out of my way to find out. 

I've tried to look at this from two sides, as I do with most topics here. One part of me says this is a worthwhile talking point. The conversation about what "membership" is takes a while, but the kind of folks that buy Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and shop at farmer's markets are already keen to this concept. What would stop an enterprising credit union from setting up outside a farmer's market, or even better, HOSTING a farmer's market at your branch (parking lot permitting, of course)? Why not talk to a crowd that you know will listen? 

The other side of this seems to be a perception issue. If you talk about how "local" you are, you risk scaring away people who want you to be easily accessible out of town. There are ways to counter this: ensuring you're a part of a shared ATM network; having reliable, easy-to-use online banking; call centers; and so on. But how do you stradle the knot? "Use your money anywhere - it'll still be here." Kinda confusing, but I'm no copywriter. Is there a fear that members will choose a big bank because they believe it's more convenient?

What do you think? Is being a co-op important to your credit union? Is it important to you personally? Which way do you lean? Any great examples of people maximizing this local synergy? 

Tell us about it in the comments. 



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A credit union is considering changing it's name (and membership requiremements)to take "Co-op" out because they think it may only appeal to older members and may put off the younger members. Is this valid reasoning?

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