Credit Unions Need A New Vocabulary

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Hey credit union people, got a question for you: Have you ever googled someone?

Of course you have!

And 10 years ago, did you have any idea what it meant to google someone?

Of course not!

My point: It’s possible to introduce new terminology into the lexicon, and have it stick. And credit unions need to introduce some new language into their vocabulary.

While driving home last night, I heard an ad on the radio for a Boston-area credit union who — like so many other credit unions — was going on and on about the “CU difference” and how it wasn’t a bank, yada, yada. Then came this line:

“Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for all your banking needs.”

How confusing. “We’re not a bank, we’re not a bank” but, “come to us for your banking needs.”

So what do you replace the term “banking” with? Well, I’ll tell you what you don’t replace it with: credit unioning. Bad idea.

Here’s my suggestion: “Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for your personal financial management needs.” Or: “Come to [name-of-CU] credit union to help you manage your financial life.”

Why is this better? Because “banking” is a verb that has a strong transactional connotation. And managing — or better yet, processing — transactions is not the area in which I think most credit unions are trying to differentiate themselves and compete (nor should they be).

Instead, it’s the advice, guidance, and education implicit in the phrase “personal financial management” that I think will help CUs truly differentiate themselves — and prove that there really is a CU difference.

Please note, however, that I didn’t suggest: “”Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for all your financial services needs.” That ain’t gonna fly. There are very few (let me repeat: very few) consumers out there who want to turn to just one firm — let alone a CU — for all of their financial services needs.

If you can come up with a good verb that captures “personal financial management”, let me know. I’ll do my part to help make it a fixture of the financial services lexicon.

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