Do We Need Small Credit Unions Anymore?

Small town USA old buildings with a sepia tone main street

The notion of competition against big banks, fintech or even other larger credit unions can seem unnerving, if not pointless. Despite the largest social movements in U.S. history calling for unity, most financial institutions are feverishly jockeying for position. And for many small credit unions, they are losing the race.

Since 2007, credit unions have outpaced banks in consolidation, 38% compared to 33%. Just this year, our industry has lost 104 credit unions to mergers. At this pace, we will be below 5,000 credit unions at some point in 2021.

Is it time to toss in the towel?

The answer may very well be “yes” if:

  • You know your credit union will succumb to the yo-yo effect – that no matter what you try to do differently, your organization will snap back to its old ways.
  • You don’t believe you have a team of credible, ethical, responsible people ready to pursue relentless growth for your credit union.
  • You can’t see how or why branding and marketing matters for your credit union.

There are CEOs across the country ready to retire struggling with these issues. It’s truly a competitive landscape. They are asking themselves, “Is it worth one last fight?” And quite frankly, for many of them, the answer is “no.” Growing a business requires calculated risk and discipline, and many don’t have it in them to face the issues that will drive meaningful growth.

However, despite the national news and the mergers being reported, there are small, dynamic, growing credit unions nationwide. And there’s still a place for them in today’s world.

How do you know if you’re ready to pursue greater growth?

You have to realize it’s not a time for “business as usual.” Truth be told… it never was. Being “local,” whether as part of a community or Select Employer Groups, is not your selling point. After all, if it was, people would be leaving Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase for your credit union.

You’ve got the opportunity to create something incredibly special – serving those the banks can’t (or won’t) touch, and saving others from high-interest payday lenders. To reach these people, you have to rise to their expectations. Go one step further than just offering checking and savings accounts, credit cards and loans. Be their financial coach. Find radical solutions that can be a gamechanger.

This can’t happen, however, if you and your staff are not committed to creating a culture of greatness. Our nation’s fastest-growing small credit unions have the right people in the right seats on the bus, bad habits are in the blind spots, and the pedal is to the metal on making loans. Snubbing the trivial, these credit unions spend their time on the right things that will build their brand, stay connected with members, enhance sales, and grow membership.

Last but not least, winning small credit unions realize strategic marketing is not a commodity, nor is it a department. Strategic marketing reinforces and supports the brand. After all, what’s the point of your credit union if nobody is ever going to connect with it?

Do we need small credit unions?


We just need them to step up and be heard.

Mind the Gap

Do you want practical, real-world insight on how your credit union can commit to something greater? Download “Mind the Gap,” which contains five effective ways to connect with the needs of your members, plus 15 tough conversations for you and your team.

Need some quick tips to turn your marketing efforts around? Fill out the form to download our Mind the Gap.

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Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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