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The End of Banking at Credit Unions?

Since their inception, I suspect, credit unions have been trying to come up with a clever word to replace the noun, verb, and adjective that so succinctly describes financial institutions and the transfer of money within and between them. I’m referring of course to the B word. It’s a word some credit unions embrace and even use to describe themselves, while others steer clear of it to differentiate themselves from their FI counterparts. I recall speaking with a credit union executive who avoided the B word like the plague, even rejecting the notion of piggy banks. I asked him for an alternate phrase to describe the change holders and he lightheartedly replied “piggy credit unions.”

Alas there is a solution, for credit unions that choose to put it into play, that will bring an end to banking at member-owned cooperatives. The question challenge is, which credit unions will be the first to adopt this solution? We’re talking about semantics, so let’s consider what is involved.

As difficult as it is to create a term to replace “banking,” the larger challenge is getting it to stick. It would take an extremely innovative marketing campaign to capture attention and create stickiness. Moreover, like a cheerleading squad, every employee from the front line to the back office and up and down across all disciplines would have to be onboard. Buy-in from within is essential to the success of any campaign.

Traditionally, credit unions have not been known as trendsetters, but as they continue to outpace small banks in market share (DiSalvo J. a., 2017), so too have they grown in popularity. The image that credit unions are “your grandfather’s financial institution” is dissipating.

While discussing with another credit union executive the benefits of engaging the community through financial education and simultaneously promoting credit union membership, he quipped about neither having the time nor budget to teach the masses what a credit union is. He understood my reasoning and I understood his, and after our brief meeting, I understood why he branded his CU as a bank. Thousands of other CUs, however, prefer to differentiate themselves from banks especially given the current climate that is a distaste for big banking.

The terminology I am about to suggest will not change the financial industry overnight. If employed successfully, it will happen slowly over time as one-by-one credit unions adopt the nomenclature. Nor am I offering the ultimate panacea. Perhaps my suggestion will prompt more synonyms for the B word that can be used in various parts of speech. The key is to find a word or phrase that needs no explanation, no tag line. It just needs to be used, and like the dozens of new words and phrases that enter the English language year after year, it needs to be repeated to the point it sticks.

Whether making a deposit or a withdraw, applying for a loan or checking balances, or settling account disputes, when we visit our financial institution, we conduct either a personal or business Financial Transaction. FT or Efty. That’s it! It’s that simple.

As a noun:

  • Your FTs are safe and secure with our online system.
  • Your efties are safe and secure with our online system.

As a verb:

  • FT with us and rest easy, knowing your hard-earned money is protected.
  • Efty with us and rest easy, knowing your hard-earned money is protected.

As an adjective:

  • As your FT partners, we’re always here to offer sound solutions.
  • As your efty partners, we’re always here to offer sound solutions.

Before you discard FT or efty as nonsense, think about the first time you heard the word Google, or the abbreviations OMG and LOL, or the acronym MAGA. Politics, texting, and search engine preferences aside, the first time you heard any of these you likely said, “Huh?”

Now, about that cute, little, hollowed out, porcelain coin container…. We could call it a coin hog but piggy bank is simply classic!