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When credit unions change their names

April 6, 2011

First and foremost this entry is not meant to offend any credit union. What a credit union chooses is their domain, not mine.

In a recent issue of Business in Vancouver (a weekly business journal produced in Vancouver B.C.) there is a section titled ‘Hats Off’ which lists donations by various businesses to worthy charities. This week caught my eye. Listed were three credit unions. But to the untrained eye they were not ‘credit unions’ they were ‘Financial’, ‘Savings’ and ‘Financial Group’. So what happened here?

In the Lower Mainland of B.C. are a large number of very large credit unions. In fact the total of these large credit unions amounts to an excess of 60% of the total deposits for all credit unions in the province of B.C. It runs into the billions of dollars. The competition is fierce amongst all financial institutions and there is this marketing mantra that says any FI needs to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace. That mantra has carried into the credit union system by pushing some credit unions to have their names presented in the public arena sans ‘credit union’. This supposedly is the way to be different.

The problem that I see is even if I am not a member of a credit union I do have some remote idea of what it is. But do I know what a ‘Financial’, a ‘Savings’ or a ‘Financial Group’ is? That is even more confusing.

I would ask any group of credit unions to consider what they would do in a similar position. Would you keep ‘credit union’ or drop it? It seems once you drop it you become something entirely different. Don’t ask me what, because as noted, it becomes confusing.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011 3:56 pm

    As confusing as dropping the brand “credit union” is the plethora of generic and synthesized names of US credit unions. The “CU” is still there – but the name means nothing!

    In fact, whenever you can insert a credit union name into this sentence and it sounds real

    “Ask your doctor if (weird CU Name) is right for you.”

    You haven’t differentiated. Just sayin’…..

  2. April 11, 2011 6:46 am

    When I was doing my thesis case-study of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union, I discovered that an attempt to change the name in 2007 to “Veristate” prompted more than a dozen letters and a vigorous campaign in which the name change was defeated by a margin of a few hundred out of 11,000 member votes. In that case, and in many other cases, I’ve come to view name-changes as symbolic of credit unions disintegrating their tight bonds with the communities that established them in favor of broader growth. It seems that the dynamic you’ve noted might simply be the next phase of that dynamic…

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