Now and in the Future: NACUSO is Here to Stay
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the founding of NACUSO. While we proudly acknowledge our past, we are keeping an eye on events that will shape the opportunities for credit unions and CUSOs to grow their membership and discover a new level of success. The CUSO business model most people are familiar with was a child of the deregulatory environment of the 1980s. That period was the starting point of unprecedented credit union growth through the 1990s and beyond. The equities market skyrocketed, and CUSOs were a regulatory necessity in providing for-profit investment services. This was the principal initial niche of CUSOs. There were examples of collaborative CUSOs in areas such as shared branching but credit unions did not fully embrace the wide spread use of the collaborative CUSO model at first. CUSOs were new and credit unions were doing quite fine without collaborative CUSOs in those days. Today we find many credit unions who are struggling to make sufficient revenue to survive. We are losing credit union charters at a rate of over 80 a quarter. New credit union charters are a rarity. The rate of credit union membership growth is decreasing. NACUSO believes that collaborative CUSOs are the means to jump start credit unions to a new level of success. CUSOs are the means to combine the best elements and advantages of free market theory with traditional credit union philosophy. Just as we suggest credit unions re-invent themselves, NACUSO has reinvented itself. It was a bold move, but now we are positioned to benefit from the experience and knowledge base that resides within our membership. Cooperation and collaboration and the ability to serve members beyond the limits of a single organization and its historical set of products and services are the core strategies of many CUSOs. As the trade association of CUSOs, this puts NACUSO in a unique position in the credit union world to act as an agent of change. Together, credit unions and CUSOs can present unmatched value to consumers of financial services. NACUSO proposes to be the platform to achieve that reachable dream, but we can only do it if we get the right people in the room, find the projects that truly merit our attention and backing and bring them to the greater field. We are here to openly promote credit union-owned options for products, services and delivery channels. Those options may be held by wholly owned CUSOs or jointly owned CUSOs. NACUSO intends to be the clearinghouse for information and knowledge about and for all CUSOs. As a starting point, we intend to make it common practice to promote that whenever a credit union needs a solution to a problem that it starts the RFP process by searching for a solution from a credit union owned provider. NACUSO will be a resource to credit unions and CUSOs who are searching for the right partners. We need more knowledge of what credit unions are doing together. This information is not available anywhere on a comprehensive basis. Even the regulators do not know the quantity and quality of CUSO activity. We'll be working closely with Callahan and Associates this year to refine the collection of data about the myriad of CUSO based businesses and provide this information to our industry. We will also assume a greater role as advocate for CUSOs in the regulatory and legislative arena. Any challenges that may threaten the ability for new or existing businesses to succeed will merit our strongest response. In the past, we have taken positions concerning brokerage and insurance issues, but we have now expanded our efforts to include all business programs run through CUSOs. We pledge to work with existing credit union organizations and professional associations, but our emphasis will be on our expert knowledge of the challenges specifically confronting CUSOs. Credit unions will always face systemic challenges. Today we face a national membership growth rate that is increasing, but the rate of growth is decreasing at the very time credit unions have the largest potential field of membership. What role can CUSOs, through collaborative efforts, play in bringing new operating efficiencies and widespread product availability to all credit unions, large, small and in-between? How can shared technologies allow smaller credit unions with well-established brands survive and thrive? Can we focus CUSOs on giving all credit unions the ability to acquire services at the lowest possible costs and at the highest efficiencies, in order that credit unions continue to remain competitive? That is the challenge on which the new NACUSO is poised to bring its collaborative model to bear. In the past we have channeled our educational efforts through the traditional schedule of conferences and meetings. While we will continue doing some of those, our plans call for us to share best practices, case studies and practical application solutions on a much timelier basis. We'll do that thorough regular, online Webinars and our website (www.nacuso.org). We'll also incorporate smaller regional presentations to maximize our reach and keep that valuable face-to-face networking quality. At NACUSO, we've decided not to fear the future, fret about change and spend our time just trying to stay afloat. We've decided to adapt and mobilize. Credit unions have always prided themselves on the unselfish sharing of both good and bad lessons. This level of honesty is astonishing in today's business world. Yet it is the key we can use to unlock the door of complacency. It can bind us together and launch the credit union world to the greatest growth it has seen in decades. It's about the trust we have in one another and the trust members place in their credit unions. It's our greatest untapped asset and we must use it wisely and for the best of reasons. This is what we mean to do at NACUSO. NACUSO will not be successful unless we are all learning from each other. We plan and hope for many more to join us in our collaborative effort.