In the world of modern banking, it takes a team of talented minds to run a successful credit union. Credit unions, which are non-profit, member-owned banking institutions, have sprung up around the country, with 5,757 nationwide in 2018 serving 103.992 million people, according to data collected by the National Credit Union Association.
Locally, those unions, such as Pima County’s Vantage West, Hughes Federal and Pima Federal, see themselves as a friendlier, more convenient alternative to their for-profit brethren.
Pima Federal Marketing Director Jennifer Overpeck described the greatest difference between credit unions and for-profit banks in a communal way.
“Our company culture is built on the simple notion that a great financial institution is about relationships—and not transactions,” Overpeck said.
Others, like Vantage West Vice President of Marketing Andrew Downin, believe that credit unions have a more altruistic vision for themselves and their members than traditional banks.
“The fact that we are not-for-profit really allows us to market in a way that really appeals to, especially in Tucson, many of Tucsonans interests in banking locally and banking with organizations that have their philosophical alignment in mind,” he said.
Downin, who came to Tucson after spending four years with the Filene Research Institute, a think tank specializing in credit union research, argues that Vantage West and its fellow credit unions have the community’s best interest at heart.
He cites his company’s use of hip-hop artist Lando Chill in its recent marketing campaign as an example of how Tucson-centric the company is.
“Really, we know there is a significant portion of Tucson and surrounding areas that sees it important to shop locally and that was really the objective of that message,” Downin said. “It definitely was a unique message, it had hundreds of thousands, in fact I think we were up over 300,000 views of that Lando Chill video which is great to get our message out there.”
The collaboration with Chill was the brainchild of BRINK Creative’s Managing Partner Joshua Belheumer. Belheumer believes that the marketing campaign worked well because of the flexibility that was shared by both parties.
“Somebody on our team brought up Lando and how he would probably be into it because he’s a great ally to Tucson and that message and it would be a good fit,” Belheumer said. “And then we let him have a ton of creative control. He had the strategy, he had the idea … it just originated with us and we just made sure it stayed on strategy, but we let all these different great creative minds come together and really run with it.”
For Belheumer, his company’s work allows them to put a human face on credit unions, reminding the public of the benefits that come with banking locally.
“Overall, our goal is to make people understand that their choices of who they bank with you impact their communities,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll choose Vantage West side of the credit unions and then, we’re there to help anyway we can.”
Another unique aspect that credit unions in Tucson present is their ability to reach the Hispanic community, as well as millennial customers.
Both Downin and Hughes Marketing Manager Dani Durnel-Garcia touched on that focus.
Durnel-Garcia also believes that Hughes’ unique online footprint and easy-to-use mobile applications make them the first choice for younger residents, who may feel alienated by traditional banks.
“We’re definitely targeting the millennials, but I think everybody is targeting millennials right now, because it’s such a large generation,” she said. “So, we’re going after the millennials, we’re going after the Hispanic community, because Tucson has a large Hispanic community.”
Durnel-Garcia believes Hughes is on the right track, with more than 34,000 Facebook followers and a surging Instagram account.
She said that those accounts, plus the company’s newfound financial literacy program that’s being taught in 15 schools across Tucson, can open up a whole new generation for the credit union industry.
“What’s wonderful about that is the students get real world examples and real-life experience when it comes to finances, to keep them better prepared for the future when they become adults,” she said. “And also, learning how to budget so that they don’t make those mistakes that we all made with our credit and our finances.”