LATHAM N.Y. -- Small credit unions often find themselves too busy to plan for the future, but a New York State Credit Union League program seeks to help some find room to plan.
Making the Strategic Connection is a program the league offers through a grant it received from the New York State Credit Union Foundation. The program provides participating credit unions with advice and assistance from a management consultant who helps them tackle many dimensions of the strategic planning process.
"What I often find is that strategic planning tends to get bumped to the bottom of the agendas of many smaller asset size credit unions," explained Marge Kazz, management consultant for the league. "The program seeks to demystify the planning process and to empower the credit unions by letting them learn and get ideas from each other."
The program got under way three years ago with the participation of 14 credit unions in 2006, 11 in 2007 and 12 are prepared to get started in 2008. Participants in the program's first two years were restricted to credit unions of less than $10 million in assets, but this year's requirements bumped the maximum asset level allowed to $20 million.
Kazz said that, unsurprisingly, lack of money and lack of time are the biggest obstacles faced by smaller credit unions who try to think and plan strategically in different areas and these problems sometimes persist even after the program ends.
"Small credit unions can just be overwhelmed by the immediate circumstances when they return from the conference," she explained, but added that two of the smaller asset CUs that she worked with in the first year had a goal of expanding their fields of membership through community charters and that they managed to achieve that.
"It was interesting to hear the other managers' perspectives and to learn the different aspects of a credit union's financial fitness," said Jaime Pecorallo, manager of Special Metals FCU about his CUs experience following the first program.
"The workshop offered me a step-by-step process of how to achieve goals in the short- and long-term," Pecorallo continued. "By participating in this program, our credit union will be able to establish a plan for expanding membership and services within our budget. We'll also have a marketing strategy to help us implement it more successfully."
Kazz said that the program is geared for the participation of at least the CEOs from the participating credit unions along with at two other members of the staff or volunteers. In previous years, the program drew more than one participant per institution but this year Kazz says the program has only the CEO from each participating credit union.
"This means that the CEO is going to learn about strategic planning but then have the burden of taking that back and selling it to the board," she said, adding that the program suggested bringing board members but had no power to make them do so. "We can't tell them what to do," she said.