Almost two years ago, after I had been in the credit union industry for a less than a year, I made a statement about wanting to see a credit union revolution. At that particular time, I had been thinking about all of the incredibly awesome things I knew about credit unions, but at the same time I realized that prior to actually working in one I had no idea what the heck a credit union was. Now, three years in and after countless interactions with marketers, CEO’s, and all sorts of credit union employees, it has become quite apparent to me that nearly all credit unions face this issue.
Nobody knows who we are or what we can do for people. Instead of really thinking about how to address this problem, often times we focus on trivial little things. We cringe when people call us banks and we talk a lot about attracting younger members. Why do we care what our members or others call us? As humans, we categorize things and it just so happens that most people think that any place that takes deposits, gives out checking accounts and processes loans is a bank. Instead, we should focus on differentiating not based on what we’re called, but on how we do things. Should we focus on attracting younger members? You better believe it! But what good is that member if they don’t truly understand why a credit union is a better choice? In other words, what are we going to do after member acquisition?
I digress. We’ve all heard the term ‘credit union movement’. It’s lovely isn’t it? Well, not really. We don’t need a movement. We’ve got work to do and that work will never stop. The moment it does stop is the exact moment that we fall even further behind other financial institutions. Movement is defined as:
“the act or process of moving; especially : change of place or position or posture or b: a series of organized activities working toward an objective; also : an organized effort to promote or attain an end”
Is there truly an end to the work we have in front of us? Do we believe that if we get to a certain point we will no longer have to work for our fair share of the market? I think we can do much better than that. If you want to talk about radical change and doing what is necessary to stop being one of the world’s best kept secrets, we need more than a movement, we need a revolution:
“a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm”
We need to make a fundamental change in the way that we do business. We need to rethink our marketing and advertising strategies because what we’ve been doing is not producing the results we all talk about wanting to see. We can’t rely on banks to continually shoot themselves in the foot and cherry-pick their customers. Nope. Instead, we need to cultivate our communities and instill the feeling of value of credit union membership in our entire membership.
We all want younger members, but remember this: Your most loyal members, the ones who truly understand your cooperative structure and the “one share one vote” concept are getting older! The younger members your credit union attracts are much less loyal and unless you have a plan for how to articulate the true nature of cooperative democratic finance, you will lose those members way faster than you attract them.
The thing is this; A revolution isn’t good enough either! As an industry, we need to enter into a state of evolution.
“a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state”
Although at times finance seems complicated, we’re actually a pretty simple business. We’ve become more complex with the advent of new technologies, but we sell the same widgets as the community bank down the street or the mega-bank who advertises at every television commercial break.
We’ve got a battle on our hands and in a battle you don’t stop moving. You never stop changing tactics and you certainly don’t step out into the field with out a strategic plan to accomplish your goals. You might say this, “If bank is just a title we shouldn’t worry about, why should we care if we call something a movement or a revolution?” The answer is simple. It’s a state of mind. It’s a constant awareness that we need to be open to new ideas, we need to work together and we will need to do these things consistently.
Sometimes, a shift in perspective shows us an entirely different picture. We all need to see that new picture. Too often we get “stuck in the weeds” or don’t have the time to think twelve, eighteen or even twenty-four months out. This won’t fly. We’re becoming more complex, but are we entering a better state?
What are your thoughts?
Long live the rEvolution! #CUrEvolution