Welcome to our new credit union member!

My wife and I welcomed our daughter Elise into the world on January 5, 2007. Elise joins our three-year old son, Aidan. We are as proud and thankful as can be. With the statistically perfect atomic family, we are now four credit union members strong!

However, it's in times like this that make me ponder the future of the credit union industry.

What will the credit union system look like when my kids are young adults? Will the credit union of the future become indistinguishable from the bank of the future? In the never-ending quest for member acquisition and improved bottom-line performance, I sure hope that the credit union system can retain the things that make it great.

Credit union members are proud of their credit union. In brand perception surveys that we conduct for our clients, members repeatedly reference superior service, local ownership and strong community involvement as reasons they stick with their credit union.

Members are also passionate about the small size of their credit unions. With continuing consolidation making Canadian credit unions larger everyday, there may only be a handful of mega credit unions left for our children to champion. Will these differentiating traits still exist?

The credit union leaders we talk to are worried about growth. They bemoan, "Our members are aging and we aren't attracting the next generation. Plus, we are in a more competitive environment than ever. What do we do?"

Good question. Demographic trends are telling everyone this problem isn't going away. Tomorrow's successful credit union must tap into today's youth market. It's a fact that young people bank where their parents bank. The first real opportunity to attract a new member is at age 19 when that youth is in transition from their parents' home to post-secondary education or the work force. This is a very small window of opportunity.

To make that acquisition even harder, credit unions are looking and acting more and more like banks. This makes it difficult for young people to understand what makes a credit union special. If every choice looks and acts like a bank, why not stick with the bank you grew up with?

My wife and I are only having two kids, so you can't count on us for any more members!

Please post a comment. I'd love to hear what your credit union is doing to attract the next generation of credit union members. Or, if you want to tell me that Elise is beautiful, you can post that too!

Tim