SAN ANTONIO -- Credit unions that combine more back-office operations and are hyperfocused on member needs will be most likely to do well in hard times.
That's the advice Texas Credit Union League President Dick Ensweiler and credit union lawyer Bruce Jolly gave attendees at the NASCUS State System Summit.
"Even though they can't agree on a common brand and have overlapping FOMs, many have found ways to share operational costs," Ensweiler said.
Ensweiler explained that one of the biggest obstacles to achieving that goal is that executives are often reluctant to give up areas of responsibility and are quick to protect their turf.
Jolly also noted that there are limits to credit union collaboration and that it is important for each credit union to maintain its own identity.
Ensweiler said that his league is creating a task force on the subject of cooperation and that there is considerable interest among his members in exploring possibilities in that area.
He also said that credit unions should do more to appeal to immigrants. This involves putting branches in strategic locations and making offices that are more customer-friendly.
He noted that the increased consumer interest in savings will prompt credit unions to dramatically rethink what products and services they are dealing with.
In addition, he recommended that credit unions promote their ability to help members during difficult times in order to attract more members. At the summit, he showed a report from ABC News about how McGraw-Hill Employees Federal Credit Union helped a family facing financial difficulties reduce its debts by $108,652.
"You need to stress how you look at your members as individuals and treat them like they are your best friend," Jolly said.
Ensweiler noted that there isn't enough widespread support for the credit union movement to mount the equivalent of a "got milk?" campaign, and that credit unions need to find other ways to build their brand and improve the public's awareness of why they are unique.
He also said it was frustrating that credit unions didn't have the political clout to persuade lawmakers to pass legislation that would increase revenue-making opportunities. "We've got to become more effective no matter who is in control of Congress," he urged, "We just can't seem to beat the banks."