Compared to the other two states we’ve covered so far (Minnesota and Maine), Georgia does not as yet have as much of an integrated credit union culture. While it's true that credit union visibility is not as prominent in the state, the industry is working hard to make changes. For example, both Delta Community Credit Union, the state’s largest, and Georgia’s Own Credit Union do a lot of radio advertising, clearly trying to stay top of mind for consumers.
Mike Mercer, president and CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, has been based in Georgia for 30 years, but is also heavily involved in credit union issues on a national level. GCUA offers advocacy, educational, operational and marketing support designed to help credit unions meet their members’ financial services needs. The organization believes 2017 was a good year for Georgia’s credit unions, and Mercer expects to see memberships rise and growth remain consistent in the new year.
As part of our ongoing series of getting to know credit unions on a regional basis, Glen Sarvady sat with Mike Mercer last November to discuss these issues and much more about the state of Georgia credit unions. Listen to the complete episode to hear more of Mike’s insights.
Georgia Credit Union Advocacy
Credit unions are a unique financial service for many reasons, including consistently providing their members with affordance financial services. Because credit unions are non-profit, they exist solely to serve members, and it’s this difference that makes them so vital to Georgia communities.
To that end, Georgia credit unions are finding innovative ways to advocate on behalf of their industry, striving to get the word out on why not-for-profit financial institutions are not only crucial to the industry’s well being, but to the community at large. They’re:
- Getting involved with PAC fundraising that gives them a grassroots capability to advocate on issues that impact the state’s credit unions.
- Reaching out to the “unbanked,” offering underserved consumers products and services such as prepaid cards that bigger financial institutions are not.
- Advocating for reduced regulatory burdens and expansion of powers protections.
- Working to create a climate that encourages consumers’ awareness of credit unions.
As Mercer points outs, “Today, when you stop people on the street, more than likely their experience, good or bad, is being informed by fewer and fewer very large credit unions. How the large credit unions do in terms of satisfying consumers is going to have a lot to do in the future with how the general population comes to regard credit unions.”
What The Future Holds For Georgia Credit Unions
Can Georgia’s credit unions retain their uniqueness going forward? If they succeed in doing so, Mercer believes they’ll be regarded as a trustworthy source of advice and financial services. And, since that aligns with the interests of consumers, it will be a dramatic source of competitive advantage.
The message he – and the GCUA – think is important to get out is how there is a fundamental difference between credit unions and banks: credit unions exist to help people afford their lives, and banks exist to help their shareholders in New York or Dubai afford their yachts. If credit unions can get this concept across in words and actions, the future looks bright, indeed. Hear the entire inteview on the BIGCast.