Misunderstanding Gen Y

As a member of Gen Y, I’ve become very accustomed to being told what I want in a financial institution. Every expert out there seems to know what I want before I do. Thank goodness for that, because I know personally, without the elder generation telling me what I want, I don’t think I would ever really know.

On a serious note, I have a problem with a vast majority statistical data generated in regards to the subject of Gen Y. The problem with surveys, is that they ask the wrong types of questions. The data gathered by a lot of surveys are based on a split second decision based on imaginary circumstances of what ifs. At the time, a participant might think, “I would like “X” service,” but once the product or service is used regularly for 3-6 months, it may not fit their financial needs the way they fantasized it would.

We are asking the wrong questions. We are asking what Gen Y wants out of a financial, rather than asking what they want out of their Credit Union, an organization which they have become a member of. This is an important differentiation. What draws members into a Credit Union above and beyond products and rates, is their social awareness, vision, and concern for their members and the communities they serve.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe Credit Unions need to stay relevant in regards to technology and services, but I believe there is another aspect to Gen Y that is being ignored and forgotten because of flawed survey results and preconceived notions Credit Union land, financial experts, and the rest of society, already have about this mystery generation.

In addition to that, I’ve also come to realization that everyone outside of Gen Y knows, and likes to announce, every fault that we seemingly all possess. To be blunt, I’ve learned that as a member of Gen Y, I am a lazy, self-centered, cry baby with a ridiculous sense of entitlement. Also, I want success and I want it NOW! Hard work is for the generations past and I expect my future to be handed to me on a silver platter with the perks and salary of a CEO.

Also as a member of Gen Y, I’ve come to have a fondness for satirical pieces of literature.

The one “stereotype” these experts don’t seem to hit on very often, is that despite the negative connotations associated with the phrase “Gen Y”, this up and coming group of young adults is very socially and environmentally conscious, and desire, for the most part, a sense of community and camaraderie.

This is something I NEVER see advertised. I see rates and products. Let’s be honest… in my early 20’s I am in no position to be rate shopping. Long story short, this is insignificant me and has very little influence on where I choose to do business. (Loyalty will always take precedence over rates in my mind.)

So what does this have to do with anything?

I was very recently reflected on why I have such a strong loyalty towards my current Credit Union. It wasn’t the rates. It wasn’t the free checking, I can get that at any Credit Union. It wasn’t their home banking or bill pay, though I must admit, they are pretty stellar. I could not pin point why XYZ Credit Union was able to keep me loyal when I had switch Credit Unions three times in the past two years. Then, all at once, it hit me.

I love what they represent. The other Credit Unions I had belonged to had a brand, but I didn’t see it, I didn’t hear about it, and honestly, I didn’t care about it because it didn’t pertain to me. (See there is that self-centered thing I was talking about earlier.) My current C.U.’s charter revolves around a local university. Said university has strong ties to the community, a very successful and well known sports program, and academic success to brag about. I care about this university. I care about their sports team. I care about their success.

My Credit Union is fortunate in the fact that this well-known university built a successful brand for them. Their members care about the university, it’s mascot, it’s sports team, it’s students, and in the long run, the Credit Union which is associated to it, whether this is a conscious decision or not.

So what is the point of all this? You love your Credit Union, big whoop.

If Credit Unions want to impress and entice this mystery generation to become members of their organization, become loyal, life time members, they need to make Gen Y care about them, what they represent, and why they are doing for their members and the communities they serve.

Gen Y wants to see results, not just hear about the good you want to do. We want to see result locally that affect us and our communities directly. We want to see that Credit Union difference that everyone is raving about. Not only that, but we want to be involved, because as I stated before, we’re self-centered and we like to brag. The up side to this, is that we will brag to all our friends who are feeling lost and unaccounted for in the confusing world of financial indifference they are drowning in, and follow our lead.

Bottom line, not many of us are going to care about XYZ Credit Union with the good rates. Our generation however, will hang out for an extra minute to hear all about what ABC Credit Union did for the communities we care about. That’s pretty cool.

Credit Unions need to start thinking of themselves and branding themselves as an indisputable and irreplaceable part of the community because of what they do, rather than a place to put money with fewer fees and better rates. We are socially aware and we want to do business somewhere that shares our views.

Obviously, as a peon, I’m no expert, but if I feel this way, chances are, a good amount of my peers do as well. So as experts sit back and judge Gen Y, label us by making general assumptions based on the decisions and actions of a few, and surveys taken by many with little experience to base their answers upon, we as a generation, will also be judging Credit Unions, and other businesses, in the same way. Advertise rates, and fall into the abyss, you will be just another financial institution. Stand out in the community, and you will stand out to us, an outlier, fighting against the stereotypes that so unfairly define Credit Unions and Gen Y alike, as we are so much more then what we are given credit for.

Can Credit Unions be the P.C. of the Financial Industry?

Today, all whilst basking in the sun of a near perfect spring day in Wisconsin, I stumbled across something which connected some very elusive dots in my head.

First, I would like to preface this post with stating that being a peon in such a vast industry, juggling regulation with missions and visions, I try to stay well versed in the happenings of Credit Union land. My inbox is flooded with daily links and articles and if I am not consumed with daily monotonous tasks, I am reading, soaking it all in. This is where these “dots” I was taking about, came from.

Article after article, interview after interview, I’m reading about issues, lack of innovation, the struggles of relevancy in terms of everything from target demographics to the latest mortgage regulations; let’s not get started on mortgage regulations… In terms of the next big idea, the solution, the one that will work, it is probably out there and I’ve probably read about it.

If all of these issues, and solutions to said issues, are floating around the interweb somewhere, why isn’t anyone doing anything about them? I’ve read theories on that too. One interesting theory poses the idea that our decision makers are just getting too old, stuck in their ways, and refuse to innovate and move forward. Maybe. Another good one portrays the Credit Union world in shambles, losing the people who really care about it and its vision, leaving nothing different then bank tellers and paper pushers working for a pay check and nothing more. Perhaps. I can’t vouch for the validity of either of these ideas, so I will let you draw your own conclusions.

There are more; dozens, maybe hundreds of ideas, waiting to be read by peons across the nation. This is where my lunch break became ever so enlightening.

I’ve just started reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell titled “Outliers.” To include a quick synopsis, it outlines that circumstances in which success in individuals is created. And here, I will shamelessly plug this book because I am really enjoying reading it thus far, and you might too – buy it here.

This particular passage of the book spoke to me, not only because I had a real life application for what Gladwell was saying, but also because it focuses around computers and technology, and short of being involved in the I.T. world, I enjoy my gadgets and all things techy.

Computers were once grand machines, taking up rooms, huge colossal beasts with a price tag to match. Access to them was sparse. There was no such thing as a personal computer, which was O.K. because back in the 60’s and early 70’s, no one knew the computer for anything but the elusive and mysterious creature it was to most. Gladwell explains that during the introduction of the personal computer in the mid 1970’s, there was an age ideal for taking the industry by storm and creating progress within it.

Gladwell goes on to say that if you were too young, you would miss the window as you were in high school and had no means to actively pursue this path. If you were older, you most likely were already employed by IBM and had a pretty good handle on what was going on in the world of computers.

Now we are getting somewhere.

Those smart and stubborn employees, who were just a little too old, a little too seasoned, at IBM thought they had it all figured out. They knew computers, and they were the future. Personal computers were tiny, inadequate machines made for hobbyists, and weren’t worth a second look. Why mess around with this tiny innovation while you were creating comprehensive, gigantic mainframes in a billion dollar industry?

Well we all know why now, don’t we? Personal computers, smart phones, most of us can’t even remember what it was like to live without them, let alone imagine a day where they cease to exist. Oh the agony!
So how could IBM miss this and not jump on the band wagon? How did the leading manufacture of mainframes at the time not recognize this fantastic advancement as one of the most profound technological stepping stones as the proverbial needle in the haystack?

Because IBM was the computer industry. They were just a little too old, a little too seasoned to see past what they already knew and embrace the change that was happening within their cherished industry. They were so blinded by their idea of what computers were and where they thought were going, that they failed to see the brilliance and significance of what then seemed like a drop in the bucket.

Now you see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Credit Unions as an industry, well, were really pretty young, just as IBM was a fairly young company when the rise of the personal computer took the world by storm. But have we aged too much? Have we become too old, too seasoned, to take advantage of what is before us because we know what is best, and we see the future of the industry? We’ve been doing it for years and have been very successful at it! So what happens when things change? Needs change, technology changes, everything and everyone around us will change. Will we?

Will Google wallet or PayPal “out-bank” us? Will they be the young, innovative genius behind the personal computer of the Credit Union’s IBM phase?

Is the next great leader out there, but we are ignoring them because we know what is best and they are too young or too ignorant to truly understand the real trials and tribulations of the industry?

I am in no means saying that Credit Unions are destined to fail. I simply mean to question whether or not we would know what the next move was if it was staring us in the face. Or maybe, we would simply swat it away, like a bug buzzing around our head. We may be too seasoned to hear this bug for the butterfly it truly is.

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I find it very interesting how much these two stories, from very different industries, seem to connect to one another. Maybe the answer to our problems is found outside of the industry, or maybe not. Maybe it already exists and we’ve yet to capitalize on the idea. There are a lot of what if’s and not very many definite answers, but one thing I am very sure of, is that we are upon the dawn of our own “personal computer” era.

My hope for Credit Unions is that they thrive. I hope there is an answer to all its ailments and this unrest in merely a blip in our long, and successful journey. I also hope Credit Unions can be as forward thinking in the future as they were in the past. We’ve come so far on innovation; we’ve helped so many by being innovative, why stop when we think we’ve found somewhere comfortable to rest.

Most importantly, I hope to help make sure we ARE the future of the financial industry, rather than just a stepping stone to greater one; the personal computer of the financial industry.