Outside Perspectives, Real Examples Aim to Reshape CUSO Model
With investment and partnerships in nearly a handful of CUSOs, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union can safely say it knows the power behind collaboration.
Tom Pisano, chief financial officer of the $287 million cooperative in Hadley, Mass., said the alliances have helped to open up products and services to members. Still, he was convinced that there was more juice to be squeezed.
Pisano was one of 12 attendees at NACUSO and Pepperdine University's program on designing and implementing collaboration and business networks held in October. The year-long curriculum features classroom and distance learning sessions to engage ideas and work with CUSO, CU and other business leaders to peel back how collaboration works in various industries.
He acknowledged not knowing what to expect on the first day of the session. It became clear the program emphasized moving beyond a traditional CUSO hub model to one that is more interactive, he recalled. Speakers from outside of the CU industry shared collaboration examples and barriers that keep potential partners from building trust. Through the program, Pisano has partnered with the CEO of a New York credit union to look at consolidation of operations.
"I don't see credit unions as my competitors. Community and regional banks are my competitors. Credit unions have 6% of the market share," Pisano said. "We have to open up and trust each other."
Cost-efficiency strategies is one area the $503 million 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union in Yorktown, Va., may explore more closely as a result of attending the NACUSO/Pepperdine program, said Paul Muse, vice president of retail. He, along with 1st Advantage FCU President/CEO Casey Duplantier, was quite taken on how the cooperative could grow its outreach to small businesses.
"They're in a situation where some of them are being left in the dark," Muse said. "We're trying to promote a competitive advantage."
Muse said he was also intrigued by a conversation with a CU CEO who talked to him about growing mortgage business including implementing lending efficiencies without sacrificing service to members.
It's those type of takeaways that NACUSO President/CEO Tom Davis was counting on with the program's inaugural launch in October. The learning did not stop after the last session wrapped. Participants will continue to connect over a year through a series of Webinars, distance learning courses, certification and ultimately the completion and presentation of a collaboration or network project.
NACUSO held its first Webinar in December on legal and governance issues associated with networked businesses. The Webinars will be archived on the association's Web site for program participants. Davis said suggestions from the first group helped tweak the next round of sessions with more discussion and interaction with fellow students. Registration is now open for the April meeting (www.nacuso.org).
"Feedback is the breakfast of champions," Davis said. "Comments ranged from 'this is exactly what the industry needs' to needing more external perspective and real life examples of collaboration."
Pisano said hearing from those outside of CU land was among his favorite highlights. Muse said there were a few speakers he wanted to hear more from.
"I think there is a lot to be learned from other businesses," he said. "Give us more of the 'how' part."
Davis acknowledged that the program is not a cash cow. It generated $15,000, which covered the program's expenses. PSCU Financial Services sponsored author and speaker Stephen Covey and CU*Answers provided marketing support. Looking ahead, discussions have already started to launch an East coast version of the collaboration program. Davis said he met with several deans at William and Mary College in December on a possible alliance.