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Strong credit union growth highlights a winning formula

Credit unions can spur growth in the coming year by focusing on members.

The past year was positive for credit unions, and the sector saw significant membership growth in certain parts of the country. Clearly, Americans are interested in the low fees, less-stringent lending requirements and strong customer service provided by credit unions, as many in the U.S. are turning their backs on traditional banks and becoming credit union members. This is a positive change for these individuals, who will benefit from all the perks that make credit unions ideal money management solutions. While participation in credit unions declined slightly overall, examining the areas where membership rose provides positive ways for credit unions to improve their member numbers and return on assets.

Credit unions can often provide customer service traditional banks can't match.

Michigan provides an example
One state that experienced serious growth over the past year was Michigan. While the National Credit Union Administration measured a 0.4 percent decrease in credit union membership nationwide, Michigan's unions saw a dramatic increase in their membership numbers during the third quarter. According to the Daily Tribune, credit unions in Michigan gained 97,175 new members

"Credit unions in Michigan gained 97,175 new members."

The gains coincided with massive increases in the number of auto loans for new and used vehicles, which is a common pattern. As gas prices fall, many individuals who have put off purchasing a car are finally taking the plunge. Credit unions are often able to provide friendlier lending terms than traditional banks, and will approve individuals who might be turned away by other financial institutions. Michigan's historic car culture probably contributed to the increase in loans, but the lesson for credit unions in other parts of the country is clear. If you offer compelling loan options to businesses and individuals with reasonable lending requirements, membership is likely to grow. 

Providing a better customer experience
The value that credit unions can provide for customers is illustrated in additional information from the Credit Union Times. The Times spoke with some of the top credit unions when organizations were ranked by return on assets. The head of the top credit union in that ranking said that an increase in loans helped boost their numbers and also credited new policies that focused on customer satisfaction and engagement. 

These policies encourage employees to develop relationships with members, and those relationships lead to improved returns for the credit union. It is clear that their is great potential for credit union growth in the coming year. The credit unions that take advantage of this opportunity by leveraging their particular strengths will reap the rewards.