Guest Opinion: The Real Benefits of CUSOs
CUSOs are the secret weapon of the credit union industry.
That was a phrase that we used with our board of directors when we last updated them on the eight CUSOs that we own. CUSOs are vehicles that credit unions can use, often on a collaborative basis, to gain economies of scale, increase specialization and expertise, and deliver innovation. Through CUSOs, credit unions can gain many of the advantages that mergers promise, without all the mess.
Starting a CUSO is not unlike any other new business. It requires a lot of hard work filled with risk and it almost never works like the business plan promises. Since they are a new business venture, they usually involve multiple owners and egos, and they do have their share of inherent challenges. Some will succeed, some will fail; others will perform well, and some not so well. We have had some failures with CUSOs, decided not to join some others, and several of our CUSOs have experienced some challenges especially with the slow pace of our economy.
We are currently working on a few new CUSO opportunities. We are exploring an information technology CUSO to reduce our costs and gain additional strategic expertise by collaborating with this CUSO and its partner owners. We expect to make a decision within 60 days. The biggest management decision we face with this CUSO is that we would have to convert to their technology platform to gain those efficiencies.