Apr 04 2016

Assuring Member Financial Capability: A Shared Credit Union Approach

Credit unions have a basic, long-standing interest in helping their members become more financially capable. Within the financial industry, credit unions have a competitive advantage in their member service mission. They have long been innovators in financial capability. Credit unions of all sizes offer financial training in many forms: in-person counseling, classes and workshops, publications, online tools, personal financial management software, media outreach, and community and workplace partnerships.

While credit unions have long offered support, these efforts have not always been well coordinated or effective. There remains ample potential for greater impact.

Filene conducted a literature scan of the latest financial capability thinking and a market scan of financial capability programs across the credit union system. Download the slides or full report. We followed with a census of the largest US credit unions by assets to categorize their outreach methods, based on three questions:

  1. What assistance are credit unions offering, and how effective is it?
  2. What is the state of the art in financial capability?
  3. Where should credit unions pool resources for greater impact?

Enabling financial capability presents challenges as well as opportunities for the credit union system. In the years ahead, credit unions can bolster their leadership position in financial capability programming with more rigorous analytics of program efficacy and more effective scaling of efforts across the system. To that end, we recommend that credit unions invest in a common platform designed to:

  • Provide high-quality digital offerings. Many already exist. Centralize the offerings so credit unions can choose and engage with those best suited for their members
  • Train and support credit union staff. Develop a web-based center to provide programs and training resources within an updated A–Z gateway
  • Compile data on program experiences and results. The first two recommendations will lead to collecting, sharing, and sharpening data from across the credit union system. With better data we will be able to understand more clearly what works and where the sweet spot is for cooperation on the common platform

Filene thanks its generous supporters for making this important research possible:

Report Number 393