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Nature vs. Nurture: Research Event Recap

Supporting members in making good financial decisions throughout every stage of their lives is no small task. Filene hosted a research event from our Center for Consumer Decision Making in Phoenix, AZ where three presenters explored the hidden factors that impact consumer financial decision making.

Executive Summary

Financial decisions are shaped by a complex set of factors. Some are visible – formal education, financial literacy, access to credit – but many others lie below the surface, a tangle of cultural, social, family, and biological variables. These hidden dynamics impact the relationship between consumers and financial service providers in ways that neither party fully understands. How, then, can credit unions identify these invisible influences and help members pursue financial well-being?

What are the Credit Union Implications?

To best serve members, credit unions need to understand as many as possible of the factors that affect their financial lives. In some cases, understanding leads to action items, such as providing just-in-time financial education to young people starting their first jobs, or reaching beyond partisan politics to unite communities around shared values. Other times, the next step seems less clear – how do you tell members that their financial behavior is, in part, a product of their DNA?

Understanding the complexity of a member’s financial life is rarely the only step necessary for solving challenges that arise. But it may be a critical first step – and one that serves to differentiate credit unions from banks. “There are a lot of moments,” Filene Fellow Hope Schau told attendees, “where you can be that pivotal resource that makes all the difference in the world.”

Ultimately, learning about human financial behavior allows credit union leaders to infuse their operations with empathy.