Lack of young blood runs deeper than membership

This is a guest blog post that I contributed to the Credit Union Times blog.


The lack of young credit union members has been a hot topic for awhile. A growing number of credit unions and leagues are taking this potentially industry-ending issue seriously and are actively pursuing younger members. But what are credit unions doing to attract, retain and reward the future leaders of the industry?

It is well-documented that the average age of a credit union member is fast approaching 50, more than a decade older than the average age of the general population. I would hazard a guess that the average age of a credit union employee is equally as old. In addition, Gen Y is less likely than baby boomers to stick to a single industry for their careers. Before we give up, a number of signs of hope have emerged recently.

Sign #1: An ever-expanding group of young credit union advocates are online writing, debating, chatting and even singing about the power of credit unions. Social networks including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are chockfull of credit union people connecting and collaborating. Numerous live Internet radio and video shows have popped up talking about credit union issues. There are a number of credit union bloggers making their ideas and opinions known. People are even live blogging from the traditional conferences that used to be the sole domain of our white-haired CEOs and directors. There is a palatable sense of urgency, unrest and passion brewing.

Sign #2: The CUDE program. I keep running into these "DEs" at conferences and they seem to be getting younger and younger. I don't know exactly what happens during the intense week-long training sessions, but whatever it is seems to fire up credit union people to take interest and action. When you talk to a DE, you can tell that credit unions are now in their blood and that they see being a credit union lifer as a viable and rewarding career option.

Sign #3: From the Crash website: "We’re a group of young credit union professionals catalyzing the movement through meetups, development projects, online collaboration and mentorships." Headed up by Brent Dixon of the Filene Research Institute, this group of passionate, young credit union advocates is growing. About 20 under-30 "Crashers" first crashed the GAC in Washington, DC in February and another 10 or so new Crashers just crashed The 1 Credit Union Conference in Vegas in July. There are plans for the Crash movement to spread to league conferences and into mentorship programs in various states. The key for the Crashers will be to keep the fire going and growing.

Sign #4: Next Top Credit Union Exec. This is a social media challenge marketing program Currency Marketing is co-producing with CUES. More than $50,000 in prizes will be awarded, plus the title of the Next Top Credit Union Exec. The field of 41 entrants has been narrowed to six finalists. It has been exciting and very encouraging to see the depth of talent and passion from young credit union professionals in every discipline. It is also very encouraging that a deeply respected organization such as CUES is taking the next generation very seriously.

These signs are a good start but they are just a start. Just like the young adult issue on the member side, the young professional issue on the employee side is an incredibly important topic that needs to move from talk to action. What are we doing to inspire young folks and make other young professionals clamor to be part of the credit union movement?


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