With all the hoopla around Bitcoin and the ups and downs of its value, it’s tempting to see cryptocurrency as a fad. Here’s why that’s not a good idea … and what you can do about it.
The Price of Bitcoin is Irrelevant. You Still Need to Understand Crypto.
Maybe you don’t agree with me, and that’s OK. Maybe you see cryptocurrency as a fad. And maybe the fact that Bitcoin made people a lot of money when it shot up in price, but then lots of people lost money when the price came down – not to mention all the scams around it–has you thinking that digital assets is an area where you’re better off by staying far away.
Because, after all, cryptocurrency is just a flash in the pan, here today and gone tomorrow thing.. It doesn’t affect your members, and it won’t affect you; right?
I beg to differ, and here’s why:
Like it or not, the USA has an ancient financial system. We’ve been needing something new for decades. I’m not going to detail it here, but you can read “Cryptodad” by J. Christopher Giancarlo, for a full treatment of the issue.
Digital assets offer the promise of not just a shiny new system (which it is) but less complexity, fewer costs and, once you understand the scams and how they can be avoided, a safer playing field.
Whether you choose to offer any buy-sell-hold services for Bitcoin, or another currency, is a personal choice, and it’s based on your members’ needs. No one wants to lose deposits to Coinbase or Robinhood. At the same time, keeping an eye on what’s happening and helping members get a grip on what’s going on, beyond the investment hype, is smart. And that’s not just because it positions your bank or credit union as sharp and in-the-know (although, it does that, of course).
It’s smart to stay current and educate members on crypto because, like it or not, the technology is here. It may be a few years before it goes mainstream, and I’m pretty sure there’s more to develop before we stop carrying dollars in our pockets. But we’re quickly realizing our pockets are no match for the security and convenience of something we can do through our digital wallets.
Educating members through engaging content is always a good idea. But what if you could give members a hands-on, easy way to test the waters, play with crypto … and learn, with no risk whatsoever?
There are educational platforms out there that do that, where members can earn coins while learning by watching videos and taking a short quiz.
This truly is a means for bringing the future of financial literacy to your membership, today!
You can also give members bite-sized pieces of information. No matter how you personally feel about crypto, take a journalistic approach. Don’t be too positive or negative, just give them all the facts, in memes, infographics and videos that are easy to understand.
Are You Overeducating Your Members on Cryptocurrency?
For the past few months, there’s been a frenzy among financial institutions (and definitely here at CUcontent) to create educational materials about cryptocurrency. These articles and videos need to be interesting, engaging and help members understand everything there is to know about cryptocurrency.
We’ve held strategy meetings, brought in field experts and researched eLearning platforms. We’ve created a course called Crypto University (super original name, because … yes, at least 3 other entities are using it). It’s all wonderful … except for one thing.
Our goal isn’t really to help members know “everything there is to know about crypto,” because the fact is, they don’t want – or need – to know it all.
Consider this: when a member comes in to deposit a check, how much of your back-end process do they really need to understand?
For most members, the answer is: very little. What they do need, though, is a sense of confidence that there IS a system, that they can trust the credit union with their livelihood, and that their money will be available for them when they need it. How does it work? No one really cares.
That sense of confidence is what the unbanked are missing, and it may be a part of why they remain unbanked, even with access to banks and credit unions.
That sense of confidence regarding cryptocurrency is what most consumers are still missing.
Confidence that your credit union gets it. Confidence that they can know the little bits that they do need to understand. Confidence that there’s a system, it’s not smoke and mirrors, and that digital assets are as real as the $5 bill in their pockets.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a need for education, and your bank or credit union is perfectly positioned to provide it. Your members know you. They trust you, and for good reason. It’s arguably your responsibility, as a financial institution, to inform them of the scams that are out there, the opportunities and the risks, without creating hype or endorsing a specific investment. Nothing different than the financial education you’re already doing about the tried and true currency that’s been around during their entire lives.
But how much information will it take to get your members to a level where they’re comfortable in this strange new financial world?
I’m going to venture a guess that they don’t need (or want) nearly as much information as those of us creating the materials think they need.
It’s nice to have it all there, of course, for the member who wants to know more. But – can I put something on the table here? There’s already A LOT of info that’s easily accessible to the crypto-curious. Sure, it’s nice if it comes from your credit union, but wouldn’t it be so much better if we leveled the info? Basic, intermediate, advanced? Without making members feel that, if they don’t understand the blockchain, they can’t own or trade tokens and coins?
Your members want a comfort level. Not a technical discourse in digital assets. Let’s keep the conversation easy and accessible to everyone.
They’ll thank you for it later.
Special appreciation to Joe Keller and Cynthia Schroeder of Visions FCU for providing this insight.
Getting up to speed on cryptocurrency: a checklist
Like it or not, cryptocurrency is here to stay. As a financial institution, your members want your bank or credit union to be in the know, even if it’s not affecting your products and services.
- I have opened a Coinbase account.
Yes, you. And your entire credit union staff. Because NOTHING happens until you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. It’s simple, but until you actually take this step, it may seem scary.
Your goal is not profit. It’s not to earn. It’s to learn.
- I purchased $5 worth of cryptocurrency.
Any cryptocurrency. Of course, you’ll need a wallet first, but Robinhood, Coinbase and countless other apps will let you do that.
- I watched a few videos on cryptocurrency.
We recommend Coinbase, Robinhood, etc. but there are many.
- Include at least 3 memes or videos explaining the basics of crypto on your Facebook and/or Instagram account.
Yes, your members are curious. They want to know more. They want to know that you know more than them. If your marketing team (and that may be just you, we get it) isn’t up to the task, ask for volunteers from your credit union board (lucky you if you can do this!), any CU or bank employee, or even your membership. There’s going to be a geek-type person who will be honored to do it. But before posting, be sure that …
- All content regarding crypto is approached from a journalistic stance.
You’re not pushing anything, playing into hype, or, on the flip side, advising people to be too cautious. You’re simply laying out the facts – the good, the bad, the scams, the profits, which are no indicator of future results – and letting your members draw their own conclusions.
- I joined a group of credit union leaders keeping an eye on crypto, led by Visions FCU.
I may not attend each session, but I know what issues they’re discussing and have a basic understanding of how digital assets are developing and changing the financial landscape.
- I am not afraid. I welcome the future, no matter what it will look like.
Keep up with digital assets so you’re in the know. From there, you can decide what (if anything) you want to do about it.