Friday, January 25, 2008

Credit Unions are like Macs

With the recent MacWorld Expo and lots of my CU twitter peeps going mac evangelist, it occurred to me that the position the credit union movement is in isn't that far from where Mac was a few years ago. I put together a quick comparison to illustrate what I mean.

Microsoft Windows Banks
Most commonly used operating system on personal and business computers
Most commonly used institution for saving and lending
Bloated and filled with policies that tend to slow down use more than facilitate it
Filled with fine print, hidden fees, and policies that tend to hinder the customer's ability to save
Lots of games (its the only reason I've stuck with windows to be honest)
Lots of free giveaways to entice customers to open an account
People use windows because it comes installed on nearly every computer
People use banks because they are on every street corner and are more active in advertising

Macs Credit Unions
Small market share, but growing
Small market share, but growing
Easy to use interface, great tools for getting work done
Lots of free services and many CU's offer better rates and lower fees
In the iMac days, they struggled with being relevant and cool
Credit Unions are struggling to be relevant and cool

When people get a Mac, they tend to be very loyal and tell others about the benefits
When people realize what a credit union is and what they stand for, they tend to be very loyal and tell others about the benefits

Mac is taking off, people are using them at an ever increasing rate. They have found a way to appeal to young people with slick looking machines, a great interface, and by doing things different than they have before. Mac is changing the way people compute, especially on the mobile front.

If credit unions are going to pull a "Mac" and become relevant we need to do something different and interesting to show people what we are. We need to change the way people think of a financial institution.

Take the Young & Free program from Common Wealth CU in Alberta, Canada. Larrisa Walkiw, who is the spokesperson for the program, created this great video to educate people on the difference between banks and credit unions.

Its different, interesting, funny, and informative. We should all take a lesson from Common Wealth CU's approach to being different and relevant, especially to the Generation Y crowd.


Anonymous said...

Mt. Lehman CU is a Mac credit union. Ever user has one and there is an Xserve. We have a few PCs out of necessity (application is only offered in Windows). Your comparisons ring true. And in our CU using these machines does have an effect. The products that have been developed in house might not have happened in in Windows world. You become extremely creative when using the OS interface. Strange.

Ben Rogers said...

I WANT to believe that credit unions are like Macs (written from my shiny aluminum laptop). I don't think they've turned the corner, yet, though. Three reasons:

1. Apple can get folks to pay a premium for the killer software, supernal design and overall halo of coolness. Most CUs can't command a premium or they'll lose members.

2. CUs, while cool, are rarely easier to use than banks. More gratifying? Perhaps. But not easier.

3. We haven't got the killer app. Jobs did it with the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone and (maybe) with the new MacBook Air. If indeed shared branching, Zopa and others are the financial services world's killer apps, we're still the only ones who know about it.

Andy said...


Macs interface is great, it lets you focus on what your doing instead of how to get the computer to do it. Very beneficial in the creative process.


We certainly haven't turned that corner yet. I consider us to be at the old school iMac stage. Getting there, but with a long way to go. Its going to take a lot of changes and streamlining to get us there. It needs to be an effort made as a movement and not individual institutions. If we hyped up Zopa as a credit union service the way Apple hyped the original iPod we might have something, but right now its all underground. Not much of the general public sees whats going on.

Tim McApine said...

Thanks for showing Larissa's video!

Your Mac PC comparison is great. I had the same thoughts about a year ago on our blog. Great minds think alike?

Anonymous said...

I can see they analogy, but I'm am definitely not a mac fanboy.

Ben is right. CU's aren't cool, we don't have a killer product, and we can't charge a premium. CU's are the dusty broom closet with a safe in it or a shoebox in a librarian's desk.

Credit unions love to talk about innovation and collaboration, but try getting a great idea shared and you'll hit a wall. Larissa's video is a great example. Yeah, we'll tell CU's to use it and maybe 1/3 of the CU's the blogosphere talks to will implement it out. That leaves what, like 100 out of 8000 that will ever use it???

We can keep coming up with these great ideas, but they will get nowhere unless they are adopted on a wide scale. It won't matter if it is the killer product or a killer national branding campaign. We need mass adoption!

Andy said...

Thanks for the comment Tim, Larrisa's vid is awesome. I look forward to meeting you in person one of these days.

Robbie, you're right on. Credit unions aren't cool at all right now, but they could be with the right changes. If only we could stop focusing so much on competitive rates (as important as they are) and focus a bit on image for awhile. With with universal acceptance of things like Larrisa's video we could take the movement incredible places.

There are little pockets of innovation in the credit union world. My personal opinion, and feel free to blast it, is that most credit unions are so caught up in competing directly with banks, and even with each other, that we all lost sight of the fact that we are all a single movement with a single purpose.

If we're going to innovate we need to do it as a movement and not one institution at a time. Zopa has the potential to be that "killer app", but it needs to be accepted by all credit unions before it will work as a true differentiator and uniting factor in the movement.

Anonymous said...

Though I hear what you are saying it sometimes becomes the biggest crutch. We have focused so much on competing or thinking about the system that we have forgotten who we are. And by forgetting that we flounder. We need to move beyond that myopic view and see that each CU is a gem just waiting to be polished. The members are the key. They will support you but most CUs don't know to what level. To keep it short focus on what you are, what you can do and what you want to do. Dream a little. Quit listening to the noise and listen to your members. It doesn't happen overnight.