For Credit Unions, the Problems Start at Home… Or Maybe Not?

Filene released a study on employee perceptions of credit unions. The study concludes that credit union employees are confused about what “a credit union” is. Among the conclusions:

  • Employees agree on the “credit union idea” but have a very difficult time explaining that idea to external parties.
  • Employees can’t neatly compartmentalize how a credit union fits into our society.
  • Employees can identify the parts of the credit union puzzle, but they don’t see how it all fits together.
  • There is significant variance in employee commitment and in the consensus of what a credit union represents.
  • Employees younger than 30 and those with higher levels of educational are less committed to credit unions.

It sounds pretty bleak — like all the people who actually work at credit unions don’t know what “credit unions” are.

Surely there was some discord among the survey’s responses. But when you actually look at the data, the news is pretty good for credit unions. In fact, you almost have to wonder how the survey’s authors came to such dire conclusions.

The survey posed over 150 different questions to 340 employees. Here’s some of the results:

  • 99% believed great service is a defining feature of a credit union.
  • 98% felt credit unions exist to serve ordinary folks, not just people with money.
  • 96% believed credit unions made a difference in people’s lives.
  • 96% thought “people helping people” pretty much summed it up.
  • 96% knew that credit unions were different because they had all-volunteer boards.
  • 95% believed there was more of a community feeling at a credit union.
  • 95% have recommended the credit union to someone other than family.
  • 95% believed that members actually own their credit unions.
  • 94% believed it was more important to look after a member and not push them into something they don’t want.
  • 91% believed that fundamentally, a credit union is a pooling of the members’ financial resources for the members’ benefit.
  • 90% have tried to get one of their family members to join.
  • 88% felt treating members equally was an underlying value of credit unions.

Bottom Line: It sounds like employees of credit unions have a lot of pride in where they work, and know more about “credit unions” than we may assume. Some messages are clearly getting through…to staff, any way.

If you’ve got 20 minutes, check out this PDF of Filene’s results.

If you’ve got another 20 minutes after that, Filene has a 20-minute MP3 about the study.

Both are worth the time — if you have it.

Key Question: What would employees of banks say if they took a similar study?

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