A feud more sustainable than “taste great, less filling” or West Coast versus East Coast rap, the credit union/bank debate has reigned for decades.
The credit union movement was born a need to serve people of modest means. The earliest credit unions were established in England during the 19th century, which grew and evolved to the mission and model thousands of members have turned to today.
During fruitful but especially during times of economic strife, credit unions have been highly sought through the years. And as demand increased, the breadth of membership qualifications has expanded.
All along the banking industry has watched, trying to poke holes and interrupt credit union growth. A number of issues have been scrutinized including membership qualifications and tax exemption. Banks assert that credit unions were designed to be small cooperatives, created to help underserved, specific groups but have now exploded in the market, creating an uneven playing field.
The Illinois Bankers Association contends that while no one is arguing that credit unions have continued to help those of modest means, some credit unions have exploded into multi-billion dollar entities, which means they’ve strayed from their original design.
In a statement on the Illinois Bankers Association website the group says, “They provide the same diversified financial services as banks to a wide array of unrelated customers in large geographic areas - all while keeping their privileges of not paying income taxes and not being examined and graded on their reinvestments in their communities.”
For years propaganda machines have whirred full of persuasive messages surrounding why consumers should join or be leery of credit unions.
Although being run on traditional platforms, the real heat of the campaign is bubbling on social media. Earlier this month, credit union supporters jumped on Twitter to tweet their representative or senator about the latest battle--taxation. Supporters were asked to include the hashtag, “#DontTaxMyCU” or post a note in support of credit unions on their representative’s page.
"It's actually helped spread the word quite a bit," Amy Montcalm, branch manager at United Credit Union ($116 million, Columbia, MO) told KOMU 8. "It's giving us the opportunity to really get it out to millions of people."
Montcalm told the news station that if credit unions are taxed, rates and the entire environment would be negatively affected.
However, the American Bankers Association (ABA) insists that credit unions are taking advantage and have created a special media kit that banks can use in the fight. Among the ammo includes a special social media campaign containing specific tweets, a video for Vine and strategies on how to get customers and employees involved on social media.
Deb Mclean, vice president of marketing and business development at Carolina Postal Credit Union ($84.6 million, Charlotte, NC) knows about the ABA’s social media campaign all too well. “We’ve seen the tweets from the ‘It’s time to pay’ campaign run by the ABA such as, ‘If credit unions want to act like banks, they should be taxed like banks’ among others. Our credit union has been extremely active in the ‘Don’t tax my credit union movement’ on Twitter and Facebook and are always in touch with other credit unions with regard to tweets or posts.”
In fact Mclean says that the cornerstone example of sharing is what is helping the credit union social media campaign stand out from the banks. “We’ll share and exchange tweets or posts, encouraging each other to use inventive or creative posts or tweets. The notion of sharing is just the opposite of the banks. They don’t want each other to know what they are doing so each bank is on its own with their campaign.”
She said that when she saw the tweet, “If credit unions want to act like banks, they should be taxed like banks” she thought of another credit union that had tweeted, “Don’t flatter yourself.” “We re-tweeted that line, which for credit unions is part of our culture. We are able to provide a unified, collective front in this fight on both traditional and social media, which is helping our efforts.”By Gina Ragusa