The aroma of barley, hops and beer taps is a hallmark of the American craft brewery scene, characterized by reclaimed factory spaces and food trucks. This movement started with a group of beer enthusiasts who took their hobby of homebrewing from their garages in the 80s and 90s and disrupted the multi-billion-dollar industry dominated by a few beer giants like Anheuser-Busch and Coors.
For American consumers, beer should be canned, cold and carbonated, whether it’s on tap at a bar or in a cooler at a barbeque. This love affair with beer weaves its way into the fabric of American culture, making a Friday night more fun or a hot Saturday afternoon more bearable. Neighborhood mom-and-pop stores readily had ice-cold beer available on street corners nationwide. However, homebrewers wanted to elevate the experience, leading to the growth of the craft beer movement.
This movement took root in local communities that saw the decline of blue-collar industries in America in the 90s due to the spread of big box retailers. These deserted manufacturing facilities left a mark on rural and urban landscapes. The craft beer movement saw an opportunity to create something extraordinary from the ashes, a unique expression of the flavors and brewing talent sourced from around the world.
As of 2021, the Brewers Association reports that the craft beer movement holds a 13.1% share of the U.S. beer market. This growth is driven by discerning beer aficionados and consumers supporting their local brewers. The demand for craft beer has remained strong, even in the current economic climate, as consumers are willing to pay a premium for a unique experience and to keep their money local.
Credit Unions Developed on a Similar Path
The idea of combining banking and beer may seem unconventional. However, it’s worth noting that credit unions and craft breweries have both made efforts to stand out. The difference lies not in “what” they do, but in “why” they do it. This makes their work extraordinary.
It’s important to remember that marginalized groups founded credit unions. In the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, blue-collar workers received no financial attention, minority groups dwelt outside the rest of society and isolated communities struggled with economic oppression – the need for microfinance was critical. When these groups met rejection from the same banking system that contributed to the global crisis through a lack of regulation, they came together to invest in each other rather than rely on large financial institutions.
The movement was a romantic endeavor with a noble purpose, a tale of rebellion against the powerful and discovering financial strength through collaboration. It adopted the slogan “people helping people” and a vision of a world where everyone can access affordable finance options. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the need for financial stability is even greater today than during the Depression, as low to moderate-income communities were disproportionately affected by the global pandemic.
REV Is Different
Meet REV, a credit union established in 1955 on an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina, with a fresh perspective on banking. Like local bars, bank branches are common in every mid-sized town in America. However, REV and other credit unions aim to go beyond the conventional operations that were integral to the early credit union movement but now need to connect with modern consumers.
Inspired by the craft beer movement, REV’s approach is called Craft Banking, linking their passion, values and purpose to the local community and economy. In the same way that craft beer convinced 13.1% of the market that their hobby was worth disrupting a well-established industry, REV seeks to change the perception of credit unions by emphasizing their commitment to making both social and economic impact in their community.
The Future of Credit Unions
Many credit unions face the challenge of survival, and the key to the movement’s future is not just relevance or technology but changing the perception of credit unions. Consider how the credit union mantra “people helping people” contrasts with brands like Patagonia and its focus on ecological conservation, or Bombas and its mission to help the homeless. In short, the messaging of brands has evolved.
Like other credit unions, REV is not competing with other financial institutions but with digital experiences, wellness in the workplace and brands that share similar values with customers. Companies such as Google, Nike and Patagonia offer what REV strives to provide and more.
REV’s 4 Internal Pillars
The success of Craft Banking at REV is based on four fundamental beliefs that drive growth with purpose. First, REV is engineering positive outcomes by redefining how credit unions support their communities. To build brand awareness, REV presents a service-oriented ethic, engaging in non-profit activity and helping build communities.
In pursuit of a Craft Banking experience, REV focuses on the member experience. REV has invested in user experience development to offer modern consumers a smooth digital banking experience through its mobile app. The app enables users to transfer money, pay bills and access secure customer support.
In addition to traditional credit union functions, REV empowers communities to achieve financial health through its #adulting program. The program features interactive modules that give community members the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about loans, credit cards, and accounts.
Third, REV prioritizes work-life balance through employee wellness programs, professional development, assistance, and bonus initiatives. The REVcares initiative encourages engagement beyond work hours and has significantly impacted the community by supporting various causes such as youth camps, sports programs, family services and autism awareness.
Finally, the fourth pillar of sustained growth rests upon the previous three. Like the craft beer movement, Craft Banking keeps its focus local, resulting in a more vibrant, more resilient, and more inclusive community.
Comparing banking and beer may seem unexpected. Still, credit unions and craft breweries differentiate themselves by providing a premium, community-centered experience. Customers can find financial services and beer elsewhere; however, the micro-tailored options engage and cater to the community in a way large institutions cannot. Similarly, craft beer caters to the unique tastes of its residents, just as Craft Banking offers its community personalized engagement to promote growth at all levels.
Ready to start your craft banking experience? Apply today!