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More credit unions are attempting to become as relevant as mainstream banks by offering innovative products such as contactless debit cards and mobile-banking services, according to industry insiders. Offering such products, the credit unions believe, can help attract younger customers, especially those who fall into the Generation Y demographic born between 1976 and 2000. Credit unions commonly have trouble finding new customers, especially younger ones, according to a report by Boston-based Aite Group LLC, whose research suggests attracting new members remains a "critical challenge" for more than 55% of credit unions. Aite based that finding on the results of a July survey it did of 93 U.S. credit unions in conjunction with the Credit Union Executives Society, an independent membership association for credit-union executives worldwide. "While [credit unions] do say they want to attract younger members, they are not expecting the changes to come very quickly," Christine Berry, the report's author and an Aite research director, tells ATM&Debit News, a CardLine sister publication. Credit unions recognize the recruitment challenges they face, so they are altering their marketing strategies. In January, PSCU Financial Services, one of the nation's largest credit-union organizations, launched a campaign to help promote contactless debit cards to existing and potential customers, including Gen Y consumers (CardLine, 1/28). The average credit-union member is 47 years old, according to industry insiders. PSCU's contactless campaign came a week after it announced it would begin reselling mobile-banking services to its 1,100 member credit unions. More recently, Co-op Financial Services, which services nearly 3,000 credit unions, last week signed partnership agreements to promote mobile banking to credit unions. Going forward, we need to find ways to become more relevant," says Kim Hester, Co-op Financial executive vice president of network services. "We can't continue to operate and be their parents' credit union because we won't be relevant and we won't reach [younger customers]."

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