A Strategy To Adopt A Younger Point Of View

Advisory roles are helping two credit unions engage millennial members.

Attracting and retaining younger members is an area of focus for many credit unions. Popular strategies range from social media outreach to in-person service campaigns, product tweaking to technology development, internshipsto college partnerships. One credit union even has a vice president of unbanking that oversees Gen Y initiatives.

Michigan-based HarborLight Credit Union and Maryland’s Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union are looking to advisory boards to help them incorporate younger viewpoints into their strategy and operations.

Board Of Financial Literacy

HarborLight Credit Union ($94.6M, Whitehall, MI) established its youth advisory board in 2005 with the goal of promoting financial literacy. The YABs as director of financial education, Sheryl Hogle, affectionately called the board’s members in a 2014 CreditUnions.com article were involved in designing one of two VISA Gold First Cards, a credit card that HarborLight promotes primarily to young adults.

Learn more about HarborLight’s youth advisory board in If You Think Your Youth Campaign Is Hip, It Probably Isn’t.


HarborLight Credit Union
Data as of 09.30.15

  • HQ: Whitehall, MI
  • Assets: $94.6
  • Members: 10,388
  • Branches: 1
  • 12-MO Share Growth: 0.70%
  • 12-MO Loan Growth: 12.73%
  • ROA: 0.12%

Some YABs have participated in the board for as long as five years or have recruited younger siblings to serve. YAB members have appeared in the credit union’s radio and TV commercials touting things such as the credit union’s student-run branches and its student loan options. YABs also help plan and participate in student financial workshops, share feedback on marketing promotions and products, and talk up the credit union’s youth programs to their schools and communities.

They are our voice in the community and help explain what the credit union is all about, Hogle says.

What You Need To Know About Youth Advisory Boards

Sheryl Hogle discusses how a youth advisory board helps develop the money management skills of the next generation in this Callahan Leadership Webinar.

One-On-One Outreach


Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union
Data as of 09.30.15

  • HQ: Baltimore, MD
  • Assets: $377.8M
  • Members: 40,277
  • Branches: 4
  • 12-MO Share Growth: 1.98%
  • 12-MO Loan Growth: -0.99%
  • ROA: 0.88%

When Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union ($377.8M, Baltimore, MD) launched its advisory council in 2012, it started with personal relationships to identify a diverse group of members who would be active and committed to the credit union.

Through our board members and sponsor, we were able to invite a few students at Johns Hopkins University to join our advisory council in addition to members who worked for the university and hospital, says Lynn M. Gregory, senior vice president of marketing and member services for the credit union. Then we opened the advisory council up to every member by promoting it on the website and announcing it during our annual meeting. The result was a diverse group with a lot of different viewpoints, including a few recent alumni, which is exactly what we needed.

Today, the council consists of 25 members with approximately 20% of them falling into the millennial category. Several who remain active are alumni who began volunteering with the credit union when they were students.

We see this group as being a potential pool of board members.

Unlike some of the longtime members who were so devoted to the credit union that they hadn’t actively sought services from a competing financial institution in years, the millennial council members had been exposed to more options and were able to share those experiences.

The younger advisory council members spoke about using mobile apps from other institutions and mobile deposit even before we rolled it out at our credit union, Gregory says. They provided valuable input and tended to be more tech savvy.

That feedback has been helpful to the credit union on several fronts.

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We found out we are fairly competitive on the technology side with other services out there, Gregory says. We don’t have everything the big banks or smaller startups have yet like a specific P2P option but for the most part we have options to let members do what they want to do.

The credit union understands millennials are bombarded with choices and can be swayed by a good deal. However, it has found the generation can also be surprisingly loyal to organizations its members deem worthwhile.

Our connection with our sponsor, Johns Hopkins, and the fact we are a community organization is important to our younger members, Gregory says.

According to the marketing and member services executive, the advisory council meets quarterly at locations that are convenient for students and employees to walk to during lunch. But even alumni who have moved away from campus still make it a point to attend meetings.

I’ve been impressed by the level of continued engagement we have, Gregory says. These members are willing to give up their lunch hour and then some, traveling from full-time jobs that are nowhere near where the credit union holds its meetings.

The credit union provides lunch to the council members as a sign of appreciation for committing time and providing input to the credit union. And far from being disengaged outside of official gatherings, council members communicate via email, primarily, in-between meetings.

We see this group as being a potential pool of board members, shared Gregory. Engaging and educating them about our services is a great start and has been a real benefit to the credit union.

Listerhill Tailors Its Appeal to Young Adults

In the cooperative financial services industry, few names are as synonymous with youth outreach as Listerhill Credit Union ($674.5M, Sheffield, AL).

Focusing primarily on students at the University of North Alabama, the credit union has made a name with clever guerilla marketing (leaving Listerhill-branded pens in lecture halls), giveaways (free car anyone?), and even a half-branch, half-hip-campus-hangout called The Hill.

But as the credit union’s success shows, attention-grabbing campaigns work best when they are based on a marketing and product design philosophy that generates real business from members right where they are in life.

to read more from Kristen Mashburn and Chris Anderson, Listerhill’s respective vice president of marketing and marketing director, about the strategies they use to build wallet share among young adults.

January 11, 2016

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