By Rob Comfort, CUNA Mutual Group
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the middle-class reports heightened confidence and optimism in their financial security and retirement prospects, according to new survey data from CUNA Mutual Group. Most of the middle-class respondents (89%) said they expect to retire in their lifetime and 71% report feeling very or somewhat confident.
On the surface, this increased optimism and confidence seems like great news. However, even though the middle class is feeling more financially secure, their safety nets tell a different story.
Nearly half (45%) say they have only three months or less of emergency savings. And, more than half (57%) say they experienced setbacks as a result of the pandemic, with 30% saying their financial stability has decreased.
These numbers tell us the retirement crisis is still very real and stands to worsen through the pandemic.
According to a 2020 Kehrer Bielan study, only 3% of credit union members are using their credit unions investment services – despite more than 50% reporting that they would like to.
What do these numbers tell us?
I believe they are clearly showing it is more important than ever for credit unions to address the long-term planning needs of hardworking, middle-market consumers.
To address the very low number of members utilizing the financial services offered through their credit union, one of the first things a credit union should do is make sure members are aware the investment program exists.
However, the industry’s traditional approach of relying on referrals as the core way to drive growth does not work in today’s world. Before the pandemic, branches were closing at a rate of more than three per day for the last 10 years, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp3. The COVID-19 crisis has only accelerated that trend. Referrals in financial institutions were down 30% – before the COVID crisis, according to a recent Kehrer Bielan study, and have continued to drop dramatically during the pandemic as branches closed and pipelines dried up.
How do you get your investment services in front of the right members at the right time? When you gain a comprehensive, data-driven view of your customers, you’re able to obtain valuable insights that help you effectively reach those right members that are most open to financial discussions. To ensure you’re getting this type of member insight, you need to work with an investment services provider who has deep data and analytics capabilities. Getting this type of information helps you anticipate member needs with predictive and prescriptive methodologies. Make sure you’re working with a provider who has tailored strategic plans specific to your credit union and prescriptive marketing programs that help stimulate program growth.
Other simple ways to build awareness with your members include:
- Ensuring the program’s information is prominently displayed on the credit union’s website. How many clicks does it take to find the information?
- Including educational content from the financial services program in the credit union newsletter.
- Offering educational workshops either virtually or in-person on various retirement or financial topics from the program.
Bottom line: Don’t let the investment services program be a best-kept secret. The key is to encourage members to utilize the program so a financial plan can be created to better align their reality with their optimism.