Recently, the results of a study conducted on behalf of BancVue on consumer banking insights were released, showing that the majority of consumers prefer to bank locally at community banks and credit unions. So…why aren’t we?

Recently, the results of a study conducted on behalf of BancVue on consumer banking insights were released, showing that the majority of consumers prefer to bank locally at community banks and credit unions. So…why aren’t we?
Overall, the trend of consumers finding a new home for their financial business at a locally run financial institution has been a positive one in the past few years. We certainly have initiatives such as Bank Transfer Day to thank for that progress.
The results of the BancVue study certainly agree with this sentiment, but there seems to be some hesitancy among consumers to actually make the switch. Here are some of the report highlights:
–       66% of adults in the U.S. said they would rather bank at a community bank or credit union.
–       23% of consumers surveyed who said they are not currently at a community financial institution (CFI) said they are somewhat likely to switch.
–       31% of “big bank” customers said they want to use a CFI.
–       34% of consumers surveyed who don’t have an account at a CFI said they don’t because they didn’t think about it or don’t know their options.
So what’s the hold-up? Great question.
–       71% of those surveyed said financial institutions need to offer features such as free checking, free ATMs and/or refunded ATM fees, and cutting-edge banking products.
–       11% felt that there was a lack of products at CFIs.
–       11% were simply not aware of CFIs in their area.
Wow. If that isn’t a blog to the ego, I’m not sure what is.
It reminds me of my time working in the credit union movement. My credit union ran surveys and focus groups every other year to gather insights to better serve our members’ needs. One finding in our surveys that consistently came back year after year was our lack of access to ATMs without fees. Our members wanted more surcharge-free credit union ATMs.
But the survey results weren’t talking about lack of ATM access. They were talking about awareness and perception.
After all, we partnered with multiple ATM networks, providing over 100,000 surcharge-free ATMs, in all corners of the country…and our members wanted…more? Our board of directors would read the results and wonder why we weren’t doing something about it.
As a marketing department, we felt like we were constantly talking about our incredible network of fee-free ATMs. Heck, at times, we felt like we were screaming about it. Our members, on the other hand, saw what they wanted to.
In a world where we have grown accustomed to associating a free ATM as the one with the brand of our financial institution stuck to the side of it – a la Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, etc. – it’s easy to see where the consumer can get lost. CFIs work tirelessly on their brands and familiarizing customers with the brand.
The point is: community banks and credit unions have a consumer awareness problem when it comes to the cutting-edge products and services they offer. The fact of the matter is the majority is already more than competitive with big financial institutions on this level. Unfortunately, standing in the corner and talking about our products is not going to solve the problem. Finding a way to engage our market in meaningful conversation is.
But we’ll get to all of that in Part 2.

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