Press "Enter" to skip to content

Financial Wellness Are You Missing a Growth Opportunity?


Barbara Sanfilippo, CSP, CPAE and Co-Founder, High Definition Banking®

Imagine this scene: As members walk into your branch or call in for help, your staff has been trained to think, “I wonder what pain, dream or goal this person has today and for the future? My job as a financial coach is to find out.” Imagine how this would radically change the conversation, create loyalty and impact share of wallet.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a growing movement in the financial services industry to improve members’ financial health—not just sell them something. Not only is this a higher level of service but in the digital age, we predict improving consumers’ financial well-being will be essential to differentiate your credit union and create a competitive advantage.

Doctors Improve Physical Health – We Must Improve Financial Health

I had an “aha moment” while sitting in the waiting area for a doctor appointment. My doctor’s job is to ask really good questions, diagnose my ailment and offer the best remedy to restore my health. She’s a health partner in my life journey and I take her advice most of the time. It’s really that simple. Then I thought, “So why is there a scarcity of credit unions that place a priority on the simple concept of helping members improve their financial health?”

You may be thinking, “But we give financial advice all day every day.” To that we quote Ron Shevlin from Cornerstone Advisors: “Too often, what we try to pass off as advice is nothing more than marketing offers. In other words, the ‘advice’ is what’s good for the bank, and not necessarily the member. Are we really helping our struggling members by giving them pay day loans, credit cards, and consolidating debt without also providing a plan to achieve financial stability?”

Consumers Want You to Help Them Improve Their Financial Health

A Gallup survey of 11,809 adults clearly demonstrated that. “consumers want their bank or credit union to improve their financial well-being, not just sell them products.” Some other key findings include:

  • When members and customers strongly agreed their banks looked out for their financial well-being, about 84% were fully engaged and none were actively disengaged.
  • Financial institutions that take the time to address financial health saw strong consumer confidence.
  • Unfortunately, only one in four respondents strongly agreed their bank or credit union looks out for their financial well-being (sounds like opportunity to us!).

Why do we undermine the member relationship by focusing our staff on pushing products and getting a sale instead of diagnosing what stands between members and their financial health? They’d be just as likely to purchase products (or even more so) if they saw we had a genuine interest in helping them better manage their finances.

Financial Wellness Offers a Great Opportunity to Improve the Member Experience, Enhance Engagement and Increase Revenue Generation

You certainly are aware that financial anxiety is at an all-time high. Here are some grim stats from research by Dave Ramsay’s organization:

  • 70% are living paycheck to paycheck
  • 24% of pay is spent on non-mortgage debt such as credit cards
  • 64% don’t have enough cash to cover one month’s mortgage cost or groceries
  • 56% of Gen X workers (age 36-49) say they’ll need $1-2 million to retire comfortably yet they have an average savings of $70,000

People represented by the above percentages need more than just isolated products without further guidance. They need a financial partner. The numbers illustrate the need. Here’s the want:

  • Millennials are actively seeking financial advice and need help building credit, saving and managing finances
  • SEGs and business owners are looking for financial education for employees
  • Boomers and seniors are concerned about income protection and many are looking for help

Is Your Staff Diagnosing for Financial Wellness or Just Selling Isolated Products?

Face it; your members don’t want your products! They want to alleviate a pain, reach a goal or enjoy financial peace. Read this finding again: The Gallup study clearly demonstrates that consumers want you to improve their financial well-being, not just sell them products. Our job is not simply to sell a product but diagnose correctly. Unfortunately many of your staff is thinking “what can I sell this person today.” Here’s what we see all too often:

  • Most of us are stuck in the old, tired sales training model of transactional product-selling. Our staff is trained to listen for a cue so they can quickly discuss product features and benefits. Unfortunately they are not skilled or comfortable in uncovering financial anxieties, goals and dreams and proactively managing the relationship.
  • Monthly product goals and incentives encourage short-term sales, the wrong behaviors and a very underwhelming or repelling member experience. As a result, there is no emotional connection. Emotional motivators are the key to stir your members to take action.
  • Your marketing slogan or brand promise claims, “we help you achieve financial security and reach your dreams.” However, that’s not what people are experiencing.

Is It Time to Change Your Direction? Here’s What You Can Do

With strategic planning coming up this fall, we challenge you to rethink and redefine your sales model. Does it support your philosophy and branding? Are your employees highly engaged and feel they make a difference in the lives of your members? Are you missing out on the growth opportunities improving financial health offers your credit union? If changing course is under consideration, here are some actions items to consider.

  1. Be sure to include an objective in your strategic plan that your credit union is advancing beyond a transactional, product selling model to a relationship-advice In fact, consider playing down or removing the term “sales culture” and replace it with a member relationship-building culture or MRM – member relationship management.
  2. Elevate the role of branch employees. Create a team of elite financial coaches armed with interactive tools and skilled in engaging members to discuss budgets, goals, pains and dreams. Your MSRs and financial service representatives don’t need to be licensed. However, they do need to enjoy educating, guiding and discussing basic money management principles.

In a recent Financial Coach training for a credit union, I was quite pleased to see how excited and receptive their staff was to this educational approach. They were proud of their enhanced role and relieved it wasn’t about pushing products. In fact, a few days after the onsite program Jaclyn sent me the following email. Clearly, she provided a highly differentiated and engaging experience for this member.

Barb, I was just meeting with a member and we went over her money values survey, monthly budget and the financial wheel. SHE IS PUMPED about saving money, fulfilling her dream of buying a new house and creating financial stability for her family! She is going to go home, fill out the budget with her husband and is coming back for more coaching with me.  She said, “I didn’t know a credit union did this stuff and I had no idea of any of this. Thank you so much.”  It makes me so happy to help a family this way.

  1. Remember, technology doesn’t build relationships – your people do! Examine your existing sales training to determine if it focuses on transactional product selling and product pushing. Decide to invest in relationship management and financial coaching training instead.
  2. Take a hard look at your current incentive plan as it may be driving the wrong behaviors. Ultimately you want to grow share of wallet with each member over time. In addition, be sure to recognize key activities such as pre-call planning and entering life events, anxieties, goals and dreams in the member profile in your CRM. In fact, consistent profiling and recording of member financial goals and progress is an expectation.
  3. Educate your leadership team and board on the benefits of a relationship-driven approach combined with financial health and education. Many clients find ourwhite papersand blog posts valuable as advance reading before strategic planning.

At High Definition Banking® we believe if you want your credit union to thrive and be relevant in the lives of your members, you must be genuinely committed to improving their financial health and well-being. In doing so you will have a loyal following that considers you their financial partner. Bottom line, it’s time to turn your retail staff into financial educators and coaches!


Barbara Sanfilippo, CPS, CPAE is an award-winning motivational speaker, coach and member relationship consultant. Barb is passionate about creating inspired employees and leadership committed to making a difference in the lives of their members. She partners with progressive credit unions to instill a structured, sustainable relationship management process to accelerate growth and focus on the financial health of members.Engage Barb directly for your Annual Staff Event at 858-674-5500, ext 101 For consulting and training, visit and viewer speaker demo video at

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.
Skip to toolbar