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i3 Concept |


  • Fernando Mandujano VP, Retail Strategy & Member Service at Westerra Credit Union
  • Kory Kunze VP of Remote Services & Payments at Together Credit Union
  • Jill Johnson Chief Revenue & Lending Officer at Community Financial Credit Union
  • Melissa Cade SVP, Product Innovation at Chartway Credit Union
  • Wayne Hartman Principal Software Architect at Idaho Central Credit Union


The challenge of attracting younger members to the credit union is not new, and the need to stay relevant has only become greater and perhaps more daunting given the speed of innovation and high expectations around the mobile experience. A recent GOBankingRates survey indicated just 26% of Gen Z use credit unions. We believe that number may even be closer to 31%. On the other hand, 69% of Gen Z use digital payments, so they are clearly transacting through someone else. The mobile experience is key, with 60% of Gen Z saying they would leave a bank or credit union for one that offered a better mobile app, and only 12% who are willing to open an account in person, according to a recent BAI report. The traditional practices of segment marketing and traditional financial education offerings are not enough to woo Gen Z. The impacts of this are somewhat grim for both Gen Z and credit unions. Credit unions will be in jeopardy of becoming irrelevant and will continue to consolidate and shrink in numbers. Gen Z may cozy up with big banks or non-traditional financial institutions that up with expectations. In doing so, they may not be partnered with someone who will advocate with which they feel a high level of trust.

When walking in Gen Zers shoes during our research, it is clear that there is a gap in the credit union mobile experience, compounded by a misconception that credit unions are behind banks in technological advancement. Many Gen Zers did not understand what a credit union is or what they provide, and those that were familiar felt credit unions were not tech savvy. It was clear that any Gen Zers who were familiar with the credit union digital experience did not rate it as good as their common experiences with Apple, Amazon, or Venmo. What makes these experiences better? These companies tend to design their experiences around common themes of transparency and immediacy. 

We need to shift our thinking around trust. Many think of trust in terms of people with character… who will do what is right. But it also means, and this is key, that members trust that we (credit unions) can deliver what the member needs.

While Gen Z is dipping their toes into the need and financial impact of saving and borrowing, it was also clear that their perception of the “banking” experience is centered around their payment experience. Creating a payment experience that is centered around transparency and immediacy, and leveraging the strength of credit union advocacy, could be the key to gaining the trust of Gen Z.

Innovative Solution:

Gen Z has dealt with foundationally defining events from a young age. It is the first generation that grew up with the internet at their fingertips. Additionally, they are facing climbing amounts of debt, among other once-in-a-lifetime events. Our solution is changing Gen Z’s spending mindset and modernizing the mobile banking experience. The application prototype focuses on building a positive relationship with Gen Z’s financial state by bringing relevant, transparent information that provides them with options on how to manage spending. Using historical data, SAFE-TO-SPEND provides an individual’s available balance, eliminating the hassle of calculating recurring expenses, including car payments, subscriptions, and streaming services.

The application also provides clarity and transparency when deferring payments. Overdraft tolerance comes with controversy due to its fee structure. Instead, members can choose which expense to defer and for how long; the deferment fee will be displayed, and the member can determine if it fits their need for postponement/cash flow. Lastly, members will have an opportunity to customize their home screen to suit their financial goals.