Time to Get Philosophical at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference
Credit unions talk a lot about their philosophy of people helping people, which they are humbly proud of. Too humbly. Typically, when one is proud of something, it is something one would like to share with as many as possible. For example, trying to keep our award winners, featured on pages 25-35, mum until after the ceremony has been quite an achievement. But finally, we've unveiled the Credit Union Times Trailblazer winners, and we congratulate them all on their significant achievements and successes in line with the credit union movement.
Some credit unions are beginning to ride the wave of the positive press they have been receiving in numerous outlets. They are using it in their own marketing campaigns, touting it in their member newsletters and making news in their local venues. This is all well and good for the credit unions that are able and willing to achieve these feats, and I would strongly argue that many more that could aren't.
According to existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, "Today, however, we are having a hard time living because we are so bent on outwitting death." This statement is particularly true for financial institutions and other companies right now that figure they'll weather the financial vortex if they just don't die. However, the ones that will be successful are the ones that continue to live, the ones that continue to invest in their products and people, and the ones that are far-sighted enough to know how to more than merely survive.
As you are all well aware, publishing companies are in the same boat. Many other publications have held back on new products and services but not Credit Union Times. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, officially March 26, and face current economic woes, we have continued to provide the most accurate and independent, fastest turn around for news in the credit union industry. We are not content to rest on our laurels though. We recently launched our video news update service and those of you attending GAC will see Credit Union Times around the halls of the Washington Convention Center with video cameras and digital recorders to provide multimedia coverage of the event you might have missed, as well as exclusive interviews you will not find anywhere else. These efforts will be shared not only on our Web site the following week, but fans will also find additional feature footage and photos at Credit Union Times' Facebook page, another new service we have launched for our loyal supporters this year. And coverage would not be complete without live tweets from GAC at twitter.com/CookeonCUs. If you haven't signed up, do it now so you won't miss out.
One thing we have realized is that our industry is changing, and unless we truly embrace that change we cannot survive. It's been a harsh reality for us to face, but we are working on it and will continue to in order to provide the news in the manner our readers want it. You deserve nothing less from us.
And your members deserve nothing less from you. It may require credit unions to re-evaluate what you are really doing to justify your existence. Take an existential step back and ask, "Why are we really here?" Modernizing not only your shop but your thought process is necessary to keeping the people-helping-people philosophy alive, because, like news outlets, what was expected of financial institutions even 10 years ago is vastly different from today. And the changes will only continue to charge at you more quickly and more vigorously. Board and management must realize this fate and adjust and be adjusted accordingly. If there isn't buy-in at this level on down, developing your establishment to nimbly deal with the future will not happen, and then the bank or credit union down the street will be serving your members.
Cooperation with other credit unions, trusting other credit unions will be essential. Please be sure to read and reflect upon Guy Messick's opinion piece on page 14; I consider it a must-read. He asks many questions credit union leaders need to know the answers to, such as, "Why is there no sense of urgency to make the changes necessary to sustain credit unions under a revised business model?"
The industry as a whole will need to rethink how it sees itself, which is no small task. You start with the basic fundamentals of democratic, nonprofit financial institutions created to serve its members. Credit unions know these words but must reconsider what they mean 10 years into the 21st Century. You'll recall Oldsmobile's attempt at a comeback with the "not your father's Oldsmobile" campaign. The effort was day late and a dollar short because the downward spiral was already swirling too fast and, yes, it was still Dad's.
Legacies make entities what they are, but an irrational hold on the past can make you just that: a thing of the past. Hold on to your fundamental philosophy as you prophesize about the future of your members' financial institution and its role in the financial services industry as a whole.
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