Make a Choice

Occupy Wall Street Movements and Bank Transfer Day – both events have made huge headlines. We’ve all seen and heard the talk about the ‘backlash’, the portrayal of greedy shareholders and angrier consumers and concerned politicians. Even President Obama had a few words to say about the fees announced by Bank of America. (B of A’s plan to impose debit card usage fees was retrieved as of yesterday morning). Before this and even now, credit union professionals are calling this time the “silver platter opportunity” for our industry. We can’t deny it, but even before that notion came to mind, we couldn’t understand why the big banks were choosing to carry-over their losses to customers in the form of inconvenient fees. To us, the announcement came at an inappropriate time and made little sense. There have been bail-outs, a recession (which still lingers) and a sour taste in the mouths of many. Now is the time when you have to be awesome, even amazing as a business to keep your customers and expand your profits. If you stop and begin to falter, you can’t make bad calls.

It looks like Bank of America took back their ‘bad call’, but is it enough?

“Perhaps Bank of America’s biggest mistake in this debacle is that it gave customers good reason to shop around for other banking options. Many of these customers, undoubtedly, like what they’ve found in the alternatives, no matter if BofA has a debit card fee or not.” [source]

I’m sure no one expected to be concerned, worried or constrained especially by a financial institution, but it appears that many forgot that other options were always available. The big banks are not the all-in-one solution for a majority of people, so has your perception changed now?

Do you remember the first time you opened an account at a bank? Maybe your parents did it for you. Maybe you took the leap later on and quickly learned the not-so-pleasant affects of overdraft fees, high credit card balances and higher interest rates. At some point throughout this process, you found yourself making a choice and for some, those choices often lead you to ‘break-up’ with your financial institution. You eventually recuperated from the financial heartache and moved on.

It seems that banks have always made people unhappy, but they’ve also enjoyed a high customer retention rate throughout the years. Think about it. Even after you leave a bank, you usually leave and go to another bank. People feel comfortable with banks because they’re big and considered a part of everyday routine. We go to work/school, pay bills, go grocery shopping and visit ATMs or the bank to pay for ‘this’ or ‘that’. It’s the norm. Think about the word ‘bank’ itself. It no longer just means the institution but a verb itself. ‘I bank with so and so’. Even if you use a credit union, you may find yourself throwing the words ‘bank’ or ‘banking’ around because again, it’s habit.

Many credit unions find themselves in the best situation to not only change habits and grab ‘bank’ customers but also re-expose and even rebuild their brands. However, the question is what will happen next? Will Bank Transfer Day become nothing but a fad? Will B of A and other big banks compensate for a lost fee battle elsewhere? Will consumers continue to bank or will they un-bank and turn to credit unions? Will change (on the consumer side) come as a result of self-education or because of the recent bank-bashing taking place in the media?

For us, some things have not changed. Our products and services are still centered around members, not fees or greedy profits. It’s our job to listen to our members and learn from them. Moreover, when developing any type of new service or campaign we always ask ourselves, ‘are we meeting the needs of our members?’ We want to continue to learn about you and we hope you will do the same with us.

Internet and new technologies have made the business and consumer learning process faster than ever before. Through a few moves on a smartphone you can explore your options, all while seeing what others are saying about a particular business or product. This is just one of the reasons why credit unions shouldn’t wait. There will always be room for improvement, so don’t wait for another Bank Transfer Day or other similar movement. Do it now and don’t just seize an opportunity. Attract, impress and repeat – don’t stop doing this.

For our new and potential members, we hope you continue to explore your choices and find what’s best for you and your family. We’re still here and regardless of your decision, we’re happy to know that you kept us in mind.

You’ve always had a choice so what’s stopping you?

About the Author

Alejandra Gutierrez Alex is the new Social Media Specialist for the ILWU Credit Union. She's a 'nerd' at heart who enjoys community building. Her obsessions: baked goods and old mariachi ballads.