You could say that millennials hate banks. During Occupy Wall Street, millennials made up more than 60% of the protesters, holding signs emblazoned with slogans like "Wall Street is Our Street" and "I'm A Human Being Not a Commodity." And back in 2011, millennials fought back against major fees that the big banks were planning on rolling out, and designated November 5th "Bank Transfer Day"--the official day to cash out of these banks and switch to a local, not-for-profit credit union. Millennials still list all 4 of the largest US banks among their top 10 most hated brands, and rated banks the lowest of any financial institution on a customer satisfaction survey --11 percentage points below the industry average. Ouch.

When it comes to banking, millennials have high expectations. Millennials generally want to support locally owned businesses like credit unions and community banks, but they want the convenience that big banks offer. Technology, mobility, convenience and mission are critical to them. In response, credit unions are becoming more tech-savvy, agile and can now do everything or almost everything big banks can do, and then some.

For example, in Massachusetts, HarborOne Credit Union's Multicultural Banking Center was created to serve the people most heavily targeted by sub-prime and payday lenders: low-to-moderate income residents, minorities, immigrants and young people. The facility offers free classes on computer basics, buying a home, credit repair, money management, prepping for the citizenship test, and even English as a second language. Broward Bank in Florida offers an impressive suite of tech products like online banking, remote deposit and capture products, and hosts popular workshops and happy hours geared toward entrepreneurs and startups. South Carolina Federal Credit Union offers special fee-free deals for under-25-year-olds like "Oops Refunds"--the credit union gives them one free fee refund per quarter in recognition that they are still learning how to manage their accounts. Navy Federal Credit Union, the largest federal credit union in the nation, is one of the early adopters of Apple Pay, Apple's new mobile payment platform unveiled as part of the iPhone 6. And PSCU's annual KnockOut hackathon, a 24-hour tech competition where teams develop a prototype of a cutting-edge product, develops new apps like a solution that immediately provides consumers with a virtual card when they report their card lost or stolen.

Innovative tech products and creative programs like these are drawing millennials away from big banks. And as community-based, member-owned businesses, credit unions are perfectly positioned to appeal to millennials. Entrepreneurial and independently minded, millennials care about the world around them and are characteristically more tech-savvy, more well-informed, more product-driven, less brand-focused, and more civic-minded than their predecessors. With an estimated population of 86 million people--7% larger than the baby-boomer generation--millennials' influence is massive and the financial world is realizing that they don't necessarily fit into the mindset of banking at the big banks.

Credit unions excel in the categories important to millennials-- superior service and respect, ease and convenience, lower interest rates and a source for understanding the basics of personal finance. A whopping 81% of millennial credit unions members said that their institution provides an "outstanding customer experience" compared to 59% of bank customers responding so for their banks. And thanks to growth from millennial consumers, credit union membership surpassed the 100-million mark this summer.

There is a natural alignment between the values of millennials and the mission of community banks and credit unions. By focusing on millennials, credit unions are learning and adapting to ensure they are on the cutting edge of banking technology.

Published on: Oct 20, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.