Credit Union Brand Trust: Tips for Weathering a Banking Crisis

Written by Devon Wilson


Credit unions have long been known for offering members more personalized service and better rates than big banks. As the banking industry faces mounting financial challenges, it is important for credit unions to ensure their brand trust remains intact.

To do that, CUs must focus on ways to proactively protect their reputation in order to weather a banking crisis. Let’s explore the importance of developing strong relationships with members, emphasizing customer service, and implementing technology strategies that support organizational success by building credit union brand trust.

Reacting to SVB Concerns

In 2022, consumer trust in banks in the US fell for the first time in several years, according to Forbes. In early March 2023, the Silicon Valley Bank collapsed. And with its demise (it’s the largest bank crash since the 2008 financial crisis) came lots of uncertainty and questions from bank and credit union members all over the country.

Investors and banking members were alarmed about SVB’s lack of transparency in the lead-up to its collapse. Many dumped their banking sector stocks and started withdrawing funds from accounts in anticipation of further financial industry instability. In the days that followed, the fervor died down a bit, but there is now a large number of watchful eyes staring at the banking industry with distrust.

And though your credit union was likely not tied to any of the SVB issues, it’s a powerful study in the importance of deliverability and transparency as it relates to building and maintaining trust in your brand. Because of that, we wanted to discuss some of the best ways to bolster brand trust in an authentic way.

Pay Attention to Third-Party Risks

It is virtually impossible to run any financial institution (or any business in general) without third-party integrations. But your credit union is responsible for every vendor you bring into the mix and integrate with your operations.

Because of that, your leaders and board members should be highlighting third-party risk as a top-level concern and assessing the potential regulatory, reputational, financial, and operational risks each vendor may pose to your CU.

Invest in Industry News and Education Access for Your Staff

While your credit union was not the financial institution that failed, your members may have questions about it. When big news items, like a bank collapse, make their way across news outlets and social media platforms, they also often become front-of-mind issues for your members.

And in order to instill confidence and retain credit union brand trust, you should be investing in training and education for your staff that will help bridge these gaps in the general public’s knowledge of a news report and the actual incident.

For example, though this latest financial industry shakeup was well-contained and not a widespread problem, many banks and credit unions all over the country had members withdrawing a little extra money, just as a precaution. But you can prevent this misplaced fear by prioritizing keeping staff members apprised of industry news.

Just having a friendly face in your branch who is able to articulate that SVB’s issues were caused by a lack of diversification and a heavy reliance on unstable business from tech startups can alleviate fears.

Your members have almost unfettered public access to breaking news, and being able to keep your staff in the loop on industry happenings can bolster brand trust by showing that your employees are well-versed in the industry and knowledgeable about current events that may be impacting the financial sector.

Social Assurance shared some great insights and a list of talking points specifically for discussing the SVB incident, but many of them can be tailored to address a myriad of different situations.

Make Brand Promises, Then Deliver on Them

The majority of brand trust can be won by “walking the talk.” If you make promises in your marketing efforts or on a one-to-one basis in your credit union branches, you need to also honor those terms and follow through on those promises.

Your members know you best by the content you present to the world – they can find this content on your website or social pages, or they can hear it from your employees or other members. And since we are all savvier as consumers than we’ve ever been at any other point in history, that means your words are just the tip of the brand trust iceberg. You have to prove, through your brand’s actions, that your credit union truly serves its members the way it claims to.

Seek External Regulation, Compliance, and Endorsement

When you see a celebrity you know and love endorsing a product, you are making assumptions about that product based on your feelings about that celebrity. And whether the notoriety comes from a prominent figure in your industry, pop culture, or in the form of a regulatory or compliance award or certification, that external validation of your brand is one of the primary currencies traded in the bid to win your members’ trust.

Make sure your website is hosted by reputable vendors, use high-level and industry-backed encryption services, make your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy details available online, and make them easy to read.

All these things aid in the transparency of your operations and help right-size expectations for your members.

Don’t Forget to Communicate

People don’t trust brands that don’t respond in a timely and helpful manner. Your members should have access to communication options – phone number, chatbot, member services email address, and more.

When you don’t speak up for your brand, others will fill in the silence – and that is rarely a good thing.

Great Member Tools Help Build Credit Union Brand Trust

Keeping your credit union’s reputation one that can be trusted is only half the battle – you also have to prove how you are contributing to your members’ financial wellness plans.

IMS Integration can help you do that. We have several CU solutions that were created to face problems head-on with elegant, member-facing web solutions. From Make A Statement to our Online Courtesy Pay software and Self-Service forms, IMSI is here to partner with your credit union so you can serve your members and build brand trust.

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