The Problem Credit Unions Have? No Swagger

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After reading the CU Warrior’s blog post on Digging the Diggers, I thought: Great stuff, but how and why are credit unions in this situation to begin with?

My answer: They ain’t got no swagger. defines the verb form of swagger as “walk pompously.” Noun form synonyms include audacity, bluster, and hubris.

I realize that those words might not have a positive connotation to you. But when you see some hip-hop rap star walking around with a ton of bling, and six women clinging to him, you think “that guy’s swagger just reeks success.”

It’s about the image portrayed. When I tell people how many people work at my company, I often hear “wow, I thought you guys were bigger.” Right. Because we “play bigger” than we are. Doesn’t mean we’re arrogant or anything. It’s about an image we’re trying (I think) to project and reinforce.

After reading Matt’s blog post, I thought about the image that I perceive the credit union industry (as a whole) to be projecting: Insecurity. “Oooh, we’re the little guy getting taken advantage of by the big bad banks, which is so wrong, because we’re so much better, but nobody knows it.” Oh, boo hoo.

There’s a ton of YouTube videos I could point to that all focus on “spanking the banks”, or making fun of bankers, or feeding the “little guy” image.

And let me concede that that image may very appeal to a certain segment of the market. As Matt alludes to, though, maybe that segment is just the 6% he says CUs are fighting over. Personally, I think the segment is a lot higher, but even if it’s three times greater, that still leaves more than eight in 10 consumers who aren’t going to be attracted by the “insecure little guy” image.

What do the 80% want? I don’t know. I only know what I want: To associate with winners. To do business with the best firm in the pack, not the one I feel sorry for because they’re so needy. The one with the swagger, the bling, and the beautiful women clinging on to them.

The Warrior says “We price products like we’re banks. We’re not banks.” Pretty bold. What would a CU with swagger do?  Charge for PFM access, and give away the checking account.  Require members to open a minimum number of accounts in order to maintain their status as a member. Tell members “if you want to benefit from the superior service and products we offer, then you’re going to have to earn it, beyotch.”

Of course, if you’re going to have a swagger, and project an image that you’re the best, then you better be good. With the insecurity that I perceive, I can’t help but wonder if CUs really believe their own claims about superior service.

CUs need to start “playing bigger.” Too many misinterpret this “small firm” thing. People don’t want to do business with a small business simply because it’s small, they want to do business with a smaller firm because they believe that there will be benefits — like better service, more flexible pricing, better ease of doing business, etc. — to doing business with it.

I’ve said it before, going to say it again: It’s time to move past the “big bank mistrust” thing. That’s old news, thanks to BP. Time for CUs to get aggressive and assertive about marketing. Time for CUs to get their swagger on.

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