Making the Millennial Connection Starts By Listening

Millennials make up half of Mountain America Credit Union’s net new member growth and 70% of its workforce. Here’s how they did it.

It’s taken some time, but Mountain America Credit Union thinks they have finally figured out the Millennial puzzle.

In 2010, with Millennials representing less than 30% of it membership, the $6 billion credit union based in West Jordan, Utah began a more focused strategic push to reach the critical demographic.

Today, Millennials account for 41% of MACU’s 600,000 members. In 2016, Millennials represented half of the credit union’s total member growth. Millennials now also make up about 70% of MACU’s workforce, with 45% of its workforce falling between the ages of 18 to 29.

It’s a constant work in progress says Jeremy Nelson, VP of direct marketing at MACU. He says the credit union’s success with Millennials isn’t the result of one decision or initiative, but rather it came from a series of various strategic moves made throughout the organization over time.

MACU first started by investing in research. But rather than just rely on standard surveys and typical focus groups, the credit union established advisory councils at local high schools. These young ambassadors would meet monthly to discuss banking’s pain points and how they’d like to engage with their financial institution. The credit union would also proactively seek their input on design concepts or a rewards program for Millennials.

“We don’t make assumptions about what we think Millennials — members or employees may want. We ask them, and their feedback is the starting point.” says Shelby Peterson, manager of product strategy, digital banking strategy and product team at MACU.

These advisory panels proved to be an invaluable resource says Nelson. The insights shaped a number of decisions — from sponsorship opportunities and social media strategies to digital solutions and marketing messages.

“Ultimately, they just wanted their banking to be simple,” adds Nelson.

Connecting With Millennials on a Personal Level

Millennials are pretty tech savvy, so Nelson says it was somewhat surprising to hear them say that they actually want to go to branches and talk to someone who can help them in person.

“They wanted to learn more about how things like credit really worked, or what they need to do when faced with major life changing events — things they could get a better handle on and figure out what’s involved by talking to someone in person,” explains Nelson. “But they felt intimidated walking in.”

So MACU decided to dial up its financial education efforts, partnering with area schools in fun and different ways. One unusual way the credit union engaged high schoolers was a game show style event it hosted at school assemblies called “Are You Smarter Than a Branch Manager?”

They also teamed up with the Girl Scouts of Utah to promote financial awareness and to teach girls how to properly handle money. A MACU “Financial Dreams Patch” is available to Girl Scouts of all ages who learn basic money management skills through the program.

MACU partnered with Voices of Change to bring motivational speaker LT Smooth to Eastern Idaho as part of a youth outreach program. A Grammy-nominated musician, Smooth has performed all over the world with well-known artists such as Bono, Sting, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Alicia Keys. In January 2017, Smooth toured junior high and high schools throughout the region sharing his story of how he overcame growing up in a life filled with gangs, crime and addiction.

Collegiate sponsorship opportunities have included working with athletic departments and unique partnerships that deliver a financial literacy angle like teaming up with author Todd Romer to bring the 2017 Young Money LIVE! Financial Success tour to college campuses in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho. Geared toward members of Gen X and Millennial generations, attendees learn financial principles to help them master their finances now and plan for successful financial futures. The Young Money LIVE! Financial Success tour has been held at more than 30 colleges and universities and 75 high schools in 35 states since 2010.

Insights gained from the Millennial advisory councils revealed that Millennials were passionate about social and civic causes. As a result, MACU turned up the volume on its messages about partnerships with non-profits like the local Humane Society of Utah and other charitable organizations.

Digital Channels

Behind the scenes, the credit union knew it would have to get its digital house in order if it hoped to gain traction with Millennials. This meant everything from its website design to processes and product offerings would need to be reevaluated.

Mobile banking services were developed based on research findings around expectations regarding user experience. With just their phones, members can check balances and review transaction history without logging in, locate nearby branches and ATMs, make mobile deposits and loan payments, set financial goals and manage their budget with My Money Manager.

MACU was also among the first to combine fingerprint and eye-imaging technology, allowing members to log in to mobile banking with the swipe of a finger or an image of their eye. People can also apply for loans and credit cards through the mobile app, and get on-the-spot decisions.

The credit union also rolled out “MyStyle Checking Accounts” for students ages 16 to 24, which offers tailored reward options — travel rebates, cash back, gift cards, event tickets and more.

For older Millennials, a first-time home buyer program was created that included such features as no PMI and quick close electronic closing.

Social has also played a big role at MACU. Nelson says the social team’s main goal is engagement in terms of followers and comments. In addition to sharing blog posts and contests, the credit union has also been experimenting with Facebook Live videos, Instagram Stories and even SnapChat as a way to further engage followers in conversation.

One thing MACU likes to do is draw on topical themes as part of its social strategy. When Disney released its animated film Beauty and the Beast, the credit union held a held a “Beauty and the Beast” giveaway. Winners filled the theater on premiere night. MACU also gave away four packs of two Megaplex movie ticket vouchers on its Facebook page. Contestants could enter by tagging friends in the comments section of the credit union’s page. The more friends tagged the more entries to win.

MACU’s involvement in social channels isn’t an attempt to show kids how cool the credit union can be.

“We’re not trying to be young and hip, but just staying true to our brand and delivering on value,” Nelson says.

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