After 25 Years, Callahan Sees Plenty of Opportunity
There's more to Callahan & Associates than just mining data.
Twenty-five years after opening its doors the firm continues to do what it does best-evolve to help credit unions develop their unique competitive advantage.
Founded in 1985 by three former NCUA leaders, Ed Callahan, Bucky Sebastian and Chip Filson, Callahan & Associates was created with an eye on helping the cooperative credit union movement navigate a new era of deregulation.
"A lot of opportunities were created when credit unions became like the rest of the financial community, and Ed was asked repeatedly why leave as NCUA chairman with two years left to go. Ed said he wanted to help credit unions take advantage of deregulation," said Filson who is the current president/CEO of Callahan & Associates. "He believed that credit union cooperation was the key success factor."
Filson added that the cooperative nature of credit unions helped Callahan & Associates grow to what it is today and that every Callahan product continues to rely on industry support.
"We started with desks and a phone, and from the beginning, we couldn't do what we do today without the cooperation and help from the leagues, private insurers and credit unions," said Filson. "I think the key value that we started with and refined year after year was being a reliable, consistent and independent source of credit union performance information."
Over time that core competency of presenting data has evolved to include a range of products and services such as CUTV webinar presentations, case studies in the quarterly CUSP analysis, credit union insights for TrendWatch, CYouth to help credit unions connect with and better understand Gen Y, and Peer and CUAnalyzer software designed to help credit find better ways to analyze performance and serve members. Today, Callahan & Associates has a full array of software, publications, online media, and consulting products and services. According to Filson, it's that diversity in the depth and breadth of products and services beyond data handled by the firm's 36 staffers that surprises people.
"I'm constantly amazed myself at the number of credit union initiated transactions we support on a daily basis. Last year, we counted the number of credit union initiated actions over just a two-day period and it was over 1,200 per day," said Filson.
He added that in addition to company-provided services and education, Callahan has created cooperative industry solutions through CUSOs. Its most recent cooperative venture with other CUSOs and credit unions is Credit Union Student Choice, which brings private student loan solutions to members. In just two years the CUSO now serves some 150 credit unions, has over $185 million loans outstanding and has formed partnerships with major universities.
"Student Choice represents what cooperatives are supposed to do-enhance members' opportunities, not their obligations by seeking better ways to finance higher education and reduce students' debt burdens," said Filson. "Cooperation is the key to credit unions changing faster and being more responsive to market and member needs. When credit unions share innovative practices the whole industry benefits. There is a continued need for educational financing that I think is strength not just for individual credit unions but the industry as a whole. It is a need that won't go away."
Looking ahead Filson said he's excited about what the future holds for credit unions.
"The last few years have validated the value of the cooperative system and I'm excited about the opportunities ahead," said Filson. "I believe this could be the century for cooperatives to achieve a national leadership role."