Credit Union Best Practices 7 Things Small Credit Unions Can Do That Big Institutions Can’t


7 Things Small Credit Unions Can Do That Big Institutions Can’t

According to the National Credit Union Administration, any credit union with less than $100 million in assets is considered "small." Small CUs definitely have a certain perception in the eyes of some people out there. But once you understand where it comes from, you can get to work on using it to your own organization's advantage.

small credit unions

The Small CU Perception

Especially in the United States, we've been trained to believe that "small" and "inferior" are somehow synonyms. It's why "big banks" tend to wear that name proudly.

According to Filene research, small credit unions tend to be seen as:

- Risky

- Poorly run

- Vulnerable

- Limited

- Resource constrained

- Overwhelmed

- Understaffed


A New Small CU Identity

Although small credit unions often face negative assumptions based on their size, your credit union has the power to deliberately shape its identity and defy these assumptions. In fact, you can use your credit union asset size to better serve members in ways that big banks can't.

Some of the ways those very same perceived negative qualities from above can be reframed as part of a larger credit union strategy include using terms like:

- Boutique

- Flexible

- Impactful

- Inspiring

- Strategic

- Creative

- Mission-driven

- Reputable

- Trustworthy

- Committed


Things Only Small CUs Can Do

To compete with your larger counterparts, your credit union needs to lean into the things that only it can do. This includes but is not limited to approaches like:

Niche down.

This means that you choose a market segment that you can best position yourself to serve and commit to them first and foremost. Get as hyper-focused as possible on this niche and once you're uniquely positioned to serve them, expand over time.

Select an angle.

Some credit unions are known for being very responsive to customer complaints. Others develop a reputation for offering unmatched customer service. Find your angle and stick to it.

Offer exceptional products and services.

Your credit union's website needs to make value-based promises to members regarding what your products and services can do. More importantly, you need to actually live up to them.

Emphasize member service.

Always respond to emails, send handwritten "thank you notes," and more to stay at the front of a member's mind.

Be where your members are.

Find out where they are spending the majority of their time online and take your messaging directly to them. Make them aware of you before they even realize they need a credit union.

Develop localized content.

Credit unions are community-driven, and all your marketing collateral needs to have a strong local focus to truly resonate. 

Be willing to experiment.

Big banks can't afford to spend too much time watching and experimenting with marketing trends. They're forced to be reactionary due to their size. You can experiment to find out what works.


How Credit Unions Can Thrive Regardless of Scale

Overall, it doesn't matter what size your credit union is so long as you're performing in the ways your membership needs. That's all that matters--your ability to live up to the promise you make to someone when they walk through your door for the first time. There's no minimum asset requirement that dictates whether you can do that, regardless of what perception some people may have.

Contact FLEX today to find out more information about how a small credit union can turn its size into a major advantage, or to get answers to any other important questions you may have.

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Preston Packer

Written By: Preston Packer

Executive Vice President | CMO at FLEX Credit Union Technology
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