What the Word “Member” Means to Us?

Among the many things that makes ILWU Credit Union different from the big banks is a minor detail that happens to be a big deal for us – the word “member”. We don’t refer to our customers as just “customers”, we call them members. And instead of providing an explanation, powered by Wikipedia, as to why credit unions use this term, we decided to do things differently.

Below are some staff quotes regarding the term and the importance of it. A special thanks to our team for sharing their voice, and a huge thanks (along with smiles and high-fives) to all our members for making our work rewarding and fun.

“Customer” seems to be a very blanket term. On the other hand, “member” signifies ownership – you belong to something. The word is more personal and describes the great relationships we focus on building on a day-to-day basis. 
– Kim, Member Services

In a credit union each member has an interest in that establishment. Credit unions members care about one another and are willing to help each other during difficult times. A credit union is very similar to a family – we are all in this together. Get in the teller line at a credit union and the teller will know your name or some other family member. You can see your dollars at work as the members share stories with each other of how the credit union helped them out of a jam. The credit union listens to its members. A credit union cares about its members. Each time a member deposits money in the credit union, he/she is investing in the future of the membership and the credit union. 
– Helen, Accounting 

Being called or saying “member” instead of “customer” continues to prove that we are a part of something, a part of the credit union. Being a part of something makes us feel better in getting involved, reassures us that we have a voice and thus can set the standard.
 – Maria, Lending 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with “customers” at a commercial bank as well as our members here at the Credit Union.  Members are co-owners in the credit union and want us to succeed because when we do well, they do well. For me, “customers” are temporary and searching for the best deal at that time, with any financial institution that can “beat” a rate. Here, our members are for life!
– Colleen, Lending

Our members are more than just customers since they actually own an equal piece of the credit union. Customers do not own a piece of a bank unless they buy shares, and this is not done on an equal basis. This is important because members of a credit union benefit by receiving low rates, higher dividends and world-class service. Our profits do not go to shareholders, but instead back to members.  
– Pete, Lending

I’m new to the credit union world and financial industry, so I found it interesting that we called our customers, “members”. Do most credit unions use the ‘M’ word? Yes, but it’s different with us. We go beyond meeting and greeting. We LOVE learning from our members – we want to understand their needs, goals and the casual stuff that happens in between. Chat with us online – we’re all ears! 
– Alex, Marketing

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.