Big Banks and Fintechs are Fighting it Out. What About Credit Unions?

A recent Forbes article titled, “The checking account war is over: The fintechs have won” certainly caught my attention. Of course, once I clicked and saw the author was Ron Shevlin I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Shevlin quickly pointed out the success of Chime, PayPal and Square in mega growth and the decline of the big banks like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

As we begin building out our credit union marketing strategies and plans for the next year, that ‘sticky’ old checking product will enter the conversation. So perhaps the data that Shevlin presented from Cornerstone Advisors might come in handy. Here are a few quick highlights that caught my eye:

  • PFI no longer means ‘primary.’ It means preferred. Of the consumers who have opened a checking account in 2022 or 2023, six in 10 have more than one checking account.
  • If your niche is blue collar, hard-working, modest-income consumers, you have opportunity. More than half (52%) of consumers opening an account with a megabank in 2023 earn more than $75k. Among new digital bank/fintech customers, just 21% earn that much.
  • Big banks are no longer the go-to. Since 2020, the percentage of Gen Zers who consider a megabank to be their primary checking account provider has dropped from 35% to 27%, and among millennials from 41% to 32%.

I was keeping the faith through the article, seeing no mention of credit unions – until I did. And it wasn’t the good news I was hoping for.

“Regional banks, community banks and credit unions are all seeing a decline in the percentage of their customers and members who consider them to be the primary provider, as digital banks and fintechs become the dominant primary provider. Today, more than a third of Gen Zers and millennials, and nearly three in 10 Gen Xers, consider a fintech or digital bank to be their primary checking account provider.”

My take-away as we begin credit union strategic planning and marketing for the next year? One word: relevance.

You must be investing in technology. You must pair it with the in-person option that technology lovers don’t know they need (or think they don’t need) until they are dealing with an account issue. Create messaging around solving that pain point for the consumer before they realize they have a problem. Use your digital platforms to serve that message and make it easy for your future members to do business with you.

Not sure where to start? Let’s talk!

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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