The Gig Economy and how credit unions can help

As a millennial it’s weird that I get to say this, but here it goes: the economy and the workforce don’t work the same way they used to. A significant portion of adults are now a part of the Gig Economy and we’re seeing a decline in full-time, salaried positions with benefits as we navigate what will may be called the second Great Recession of my relatively young life.

But none of this is new. I will eat my keyboard if I am the first person to tell you that some significant portion of your credit union’s members (and potential members!) are working a second or third job. And I don’t want to do that because I have a full-sized Mac keyboard with the number pad and everything, and they’re expensive to replace.

As more and more people pick up some gig work to supplement their income, or even switch over to gig work entirely, credit unions probably need to change how they view these members. 

After all, credit unions are perfectly positioned to give their gig worker members a boost, and keep those accounts for life. So take a look at your messaging and what you’re offering these folks. 

Look past the numbers and help the person

The question here isn’t “what is the gig economy?” or “is it going away?” The gig workforce is here to stay. The folks who expected part-time app-based gigs like Uber, Grubhub and Rover to disappear at some point were completely off the mark. No, the question is, “do gig workers have a place in your credit union?”

If your credit union’s normal response when people bring up gig workers sounds something like, “grumble grumble credit scores grumble,” you’re going to need to reassess. Saying “no” gets you exactly nothing, and honestly, you can’t afford to miss out.

The majority of gig workers are under age 45, which is coincidentally the group of people most credit unions desperately want to attract. Or rather, it might not be a coincidence at all, if you’re used to saying “no” to these exact people.

Your members (and potential members) aren’t working these side gigs because they want a job with no security or benefits. Of course not. They need the money and it’s become unprecedentedly easy to get started. You’re going to have to match that energy and understand where they’re coming from.

What gig workers need is flexibility and security. They want to feel like someone has their back. Credit unions can offer exactly that, and they have an unmatched ability to offer their members a personal approach. 

But you’re going to have to figure out how to say “yes,” first.

Help them understand how you can help

I know a lot of financial institutions feel like they’re navigating uncharted waters. Between the new gig economy, P2P payment transfer apps, and the emergence of neobanks, the financial landscape is changing. In more than a few ways, credit unions are going to have to change, too. Fortunately, we have ideas on how they might do that.

When it comes to helping gig workers, however, there are a lot of ways credit unions could be helping already. Offering personal loans to help these folks buy the equipment they need, for example, or financing for their new Uber or Lyft vehicle. These loan products already exist, so all you really have to do is change your messaging to get started.

Gig workers often draw their income from multiple sources, and many switch platforms a few times before finding something that fits. Getting flexible, pain-free financial services from their credit union could really help reduce their stress and the difficulty that comes with a lower, potentially unpredictable income. 

It might seem daunting to embrace gig workers in this way, but a little flexibility will go a long way. The reality is that more people than ever are living paycheck-to-paycheck. If you can find a way to accommodate them, they’re going to remember how you made everything possible.

Sam Dicken

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