For Anne Legg, senior vice president business strategy and innovation at marketing branding firm Third Degree Advertising, the glass is not only half full but it sparkles.
“You’ve got to embrace what you have, and let go of what you don’t,” said the latest Women to Watch honoree who has inspirational quotes posted throughout her office that help keep her focused on the positive. “Happiness is not getting what you want but wanting what you have.”
The longtime marketing veteran has been serving credit unions for 17 years since her first introduction to the industry working for an advertising agency that specialized in credit unions. Her career has come full circle back to her roots as she recently left Financial Partners Credit Union in a bid to better serve the industry as a whole.
“I had several dreams growing up, including wanting to be a writer, and the best career advice I ever got was that whatever I do I must love it because it will be done for a long time,” said Legg. “It helped me realize that I needed to do something I feel good about and at the end of day would leave a positive mark. It turns out credit unions provided the perfect marriage. I could make use of my strategic skill sets satisfying both my creative and analytical side, while doing some real good. I love how much this industry keeps changing and getting better and it’s thrilling to be a part of it.”
Beyond making a difference in members’ lives, Legg thrives on collaboration to help credit unions move from being a best kept secret to becoming a household name.
“We’ve got an industry as a whole that has a low awareness, but that’s changing and now is the time to show how we offer a fantastic alternative,” said Legg. “We’ve got an authentic word of mouth among our members and with technology leveling the playing field awareness will become less of an issue.”
To her, innovation boils down to either coming up with something completely new or re-envisioning processes or common challenges in a new way.
“I think author and Harvard Professor Michael Porter’s competitive strategy is spot on for credit unions to leverage the strength of our shared value to completely change traditional banking business models and structures to benefit members,” said Legg. “I’m very collaborative and love to have everyone share their ideas. No one person has all the answers, but collectively bringing in different perspectives, experiences and strengths we can all come together and see how a solution can or can’t work.”
As on who doesn’t believe over communication is possible, Legg describes her leadership style as honest, open, direct and one in which she trusts and values what each team member brings to the discussion.
Always one to pay it forward, she has served as an instructor at the CUNA Marketing Management School teaching courses on innovation, branding and measurement. She also serves as a professional marketing certification advisor and from 2003-2011 was chair of the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. She helped the council’s offerings evolve beyond an annual conference, to include peer-to-peer webinars, an increased number of white papers, and set the foundation for a robust online forum/community.
In addition, her MBA thesis, “Creating a New Credit Union Sustainability Business Model,” received top honor at a CUNA CFO Council conference, became a CUNA white paper and most recently was selected for publication and presentation at the 2012 International Cooperative Summit in Quebec, Canada, October 2012. Legg was the only credit union professional in the United States selected to present at the international event.
“If you are going to spend your time doing something then it better be something that makes a difference and you can feel good about,” said Legg. “No has never been an option for me. I just have had such wonderful challenges in my life that have always proven that there is an option. The question is whether it’s feasible. Whenever someone gets stumped in a process, stop for a second and change your perspective. Ask yourself, if time and money were no object, what would it look like? That is where you begin.
Everyone has value, something to say and share, remove the ‘no’ and suddenly we are forced to see that issue or challenge from a completely different point of view. There are no boundaries or fear of giving a wrong answer because there are none.”
It’s something that can be applied to any credit union as it answers the question of how can we add more value to members’ lives?
“How can we proactively improve our members’ interactions with us, what can we simplify,” said Legg. “We can all take a hard look and find ways to remove the clutter. Who is to say the standard way we do banking today will be the same in the future? If I can pay a small business owner directly via my cell phone is the financial institution needed? We have to consider who our competitors will be in the future not just today, and innovate or partner accordingly. At the end of the day, each credit union has to make sure its services, products, interactions are beneficial to members otherwise they will go elsewhere.”
She added that the future of credit unions also depends on its future leaders.
“It’s estimated that the industry will see quite a few longtime leaders retiring over the next three to five years and that is going to change the face and structure of leadership,” said Legg. “It’s an opportunity for a different type of leadership. We’re already starting to see a change and it’s going to be very fascinating to see what happens. When you look at a group like the Cooperative Trust, which is filled with people who are absolutely in love with the credit union industry, imagine what’s possible as they have the energy and capacity to take the industry to the next level.”