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Connexus : Issue 37
expectations of technology and basically expect awesome online services for free," says Lamont. "So once you get a young customer, you have to make sure your online experience is up to scratch. If it's not, they'll leave you in a flash." She issues a wakeup call for mutuals in this respect. Mozo, she says, regularly receives communications from clients who have heard about a strong credit union offer but can't find the institution online. "You'd be amazed at the number of mutuals that don't have the top listing on Google for their own brand." A seamless experience is the key offering that mutuals and banks must deliver, says Lamont. "Even if they've done a great job of advertising online and putting together a message that has some cut-through and people might click through to their site, quite often people still won't be able to apply online [for a product]. It's not a seamless experience, and that's just not going to cut it with gen Y." For its part, Big Sky is committed to offering innovative products. It's well advanced in developing a web loan product that allows loan applications and processing to be completed electronically. Mobile phone banking is also on the agenda, along with the latest security features for internet banking. Mutual benefits Despite having one of the strongest credit union brands in the nation, Victorian- based mecu admits the quest to woo gen Y and Z is not easy. "It's very hard, really tough," says CEO Phylip Doughty, who concedes that most young people who join are the children of existing members. With its strong industry links to the science, teaching and power sectors, mecu can still lure new members in those industries through word-of-mouth about great products and services, he says. "But getting [new members] off the street is really very hard." While he supports initiatives to gain new members, Doughty says experimenting with social media tools such as blogs should not be done on a whim. "It's high-maintenance because, once you get into social media, you've got to be there every minute of the day." Doughty cites cases in the United States where disenfranchised employees have gone online to slander their employer. Poorly framed responses to members from junior staff have also caused angst. "At the end of the day your reputation is it." At the same time, Doughty is confident a number of his credit union's programs will appeal to would-be younger members, including one to offset the loss of biodiversity resulting from new homes financed by mecu. At Encompass, Bennett says the task is to win over potential younger members who have never heard of a credit union or mutual. Encompass is targeting new customers who are being inducted into rail and bus jobs as those sectors reengage with apprenticeship programs in an effort to fill skills shortages. It is also focusing on attracting more women members in the knowledge that females are typically the financial decision-makers in families. For example, Encompass has helped organise a superannuation seminar for women at RailCorp, in conjunction with Bridges Financial Services, and it has launched a promotion to attract women members by offering existing female members a chance to win a weekend away if they refer other women to join the credit union. Such initiatives complement the Regret Nothing website program to woo younger people. "It's slowly but surely starting to get some traction," says Bennett. Whatever their strategy, he is adamant mutuals must start targeting members as part of a cradle-to-the-grave offering. "We've got to get them young." -- Cameron Cooper is a freelance writer. FEATURE www.abacus.org.au 32 Connexus GEN NEXT KIRSTY LAMONT ON SOCIAL MEDIA: "One of the differences with young people, and particularly gen Y, is that they're very self-directed. They prefer to do their own research and they'll go to Google as their first port of call, not a bank branch. If they do need advice, they're more likely to turn to recommendations from friends and family and others like them, rather than traditional experts such as financial planners. That's where things like social marketing become very important. Credit unions need to consider things like how they can build a Facebook community of young people who like their products, and how they can build a Twitter fan base of advocates for their brand."