Why We’re Steamed When We’re Called a Bank

‘Don’t Call Us a Bank’

As an industry, we in the credit union space get steamed when we’re called a “bank.” I often wonder what Chime, Better, Earnest and others in the FinTech space think when the word gets tossed their way.

I would bet they don’t mind.

For them, it’s most likely a badge of honor. It’s a gesture of acceptance – not confusion – to be included in the lexicon of the general populace. They can do what banks do, often easier and faster online. After all, to be known as a bank, a system that dates back to the days of Alexander Hamilton, caries a lot of branding power.

Of course, we could dig into our feelings on FinTech, which would probably lead us into a conversation about digital banking regulator practices (which is our concern, not the consumers), but that’s for another time.

But why do we care if we’re branded as banks?

We could produce a laundry list of all the differences between banks and credit unions, but there are really two key pillars as to why this gets under our skin:

A Sign of Unity

We still hold onto our history, whereby we were created to serve tight-knit social, community or employee groups.  Our credit unions provided financial opportunities to families that the big banks ignored. And thus, a bond was formed.

Protector of the Afflicted

Likewise, in serving the underserved, we’ve had this mission of stabilizing families through financial counseling and assistance. We’ve seen real lives transformed, and many of our members see our services as essential care to improving their quality of life.

So, now, the gut punch: Do we despise being called banks because over time we look more and more like them… and we hate ourselves for it? Or is it, perhaps, we remember what we once represented, and we believe it’s no longer important to the consumer?

This is not to say that a credit union can’t be a progressive, vibrant organization that helps people prosper in society. But to build a brand legacy, are you doing everything you can to adapt and serve?

We need to make promises we intend to keep. If internally and externally we are telling a brand story that is dishonest, or at the very least outdated, we’re limiting our potential and stifling growth with our members and prospects.

As the adage goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” What are you doing today to bring meaning to your credit union’s brand story?

Change your mindset and change your credit union.

Bring Meaning To Your Story

Frank Allgood has more than 20 years of experience in every facet of public information and marketing communications. As Vice President of Relationship Development for Your Marketing Co., he is responsible for strategic brand experiences and marketing initiatives for credit unions across the country. For branding or rebranding projects, call 864.326.8740 or email frank@yourmarketingco.com.

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