This question has nothing to do with immigration law or how many walls we need to build or even any political leanings. This question is about this very moment in time where we are living with two different sets of Americans: Those who feel native to America and those who find themselves as immigrants to America. Let me explain.
Typically, immigrants are those people who make the decision to move to a foreign land and start fresh with their new ideas. It’s how the United States began and continues to grow when people choose to live here. However, what would happen if you never moved, but one day everything around you changed and you realized you felt like you were living in a foreign land? Science fiction? No, it’s our reality.
The business landscape of our country has changed dramatically in a short period of time and it has separated us into two different countries – those who are comfortable with these changes (the natives) and those wishing for how it used to be and resisting the new changes (the immigrants).
One significant factor causing chaos in our credit union landscape is immigrant leadership in credit unions that are trying to cater to the native members.
Who are the natives?
Natives are people who ubiquitously have on their mobile smart phones, carry 25 apps on it, and use the data plan more frequently than the talk minutes. They are not only comfortable with technology but demand that it be easy to use and intuitively cater to their needs. Natives embrace multi-tasking and thrive on chaos. They aren’t looking for stability or the status quo. They can come in any form or age because it’s the mindset that makes the difference.
Immigrants prefer to do things in an orderly fashion and wait for stability to make decisions. Immigrants feel their companies are being disrupted by economic shifts and destructive innovation (creations that harm industries such as the Internet did to the newspaper industry) and are fearful to make bold decisions about the future because they don’t know what they don’t know.
Natives not only accept these disruptions as the world they live in, but they willingly adapt and drive further innovation. Natives expect companies to be in constant flux looking for better ways to serve them. For every immigrant that gets frustrated with yet another software update on his computer, there is a native thinking, “It’s about time they did that.”
As the membership of credit unions is declining, and as that membership is also getting older, the industry must decide if it wants to get on board with serving natives of this new economy.
Boards of directors need to be heavily spiced with “native thinking” to lead credit unions to compete in the new economy. The natives are taking over faster than you may realize. Five years ago, the big leaders of the smart phone market were Nokia and Research in Motion (BlackBerry). Today that is Samsung and Apple with Nokia and RIM barely in the market. Google is now entering the e-wallet business. How will that impact credit unions? Where will the status of that change be in five years?
Credit union directors will see this as either daunting or exhilarating, but the pressure is only going to increase to choose between keeping beloved nostalgic practices which may be useless in this economy and embracing cutting-edge revolutionary practices.
To grow credit union membership, serve the natives, and set credit union strategy, boards must learn what drives natives. You learn this by understanding how they think, taking the steps to identify the natives in your potential membership circle, and then developing a credit union culture that attracts your native employees and your native members.
I’m sure most reading this would love to have a printable recipe on how to make that happen, but this is the difference between the old world and the new world – what works for a mid-sized credit union in Kentucky won’t necessarily work for a mid-sized credit union in Texas. It’s a plan that has to be crafted specifically for your market. Whether you find this frustrating or exciting could be a good indication if you are a native or an immigrant.