5 Strategic Focus Areas in Our Changing World
My daughter MacKenzie recently stood up in a wedding as the flower girl. I was honored when my cousin called to ask me if she would participate. Since I was traveling on a work trip when he called, I counted the minutes to get home to share the exciting news. MacKenzie responded with trepidation. I was surprised. She typically oozes confidence and craves social interaction, so I had anticipated a thrilled response and she was nervous. The fear of the unknown was real.
I quickly realized she had never been to a wedding and this represented something she could not quite imagine. My husband and I got out our own wedding album to show her our flower girl's pictures so that she could begin to better understand the expectations. We talked about what her fears were and how she might handle them. We practiced walking with the flowers. We tried on the dress. I shared stories about times I had been fearful and how I conquered those fears.
The current market might leave your leadership team feeling a bit like MacKenzie. There is so much unknown. You have a sense of how things might go, but you may be facing the possibility of exploring strategies or approaches that are new and uncomfortable. Here are five areas of strategic importance from our recent research that are worth exploring. Some may be familiar and pose no concern. Others may represent a new walk down the aisle. All are imperative to address and take action on no matter how uncomfortable:
1. Reboot your loan language. We’ve long known that millennials are going to be the future of our credit unions, but our recent research demonstrates the way we think and talk about loans in credit unions is very different than the way millennials think and talk about loans. In “Millennial Money Chatter: A Guide to Millennial Financial Discourse,” a netnography study, Filene found that the next generation equates debt with death and slavery. Debt creates feelings of anger and fear. We have an opportunity to leverage these perspectives to better engage the next generation, help them to solve some of their financial challenges and ultimately shift the way they think about loans.
2. Kill service. On its own, it isn't enough. Credit unions must move toward a culture of member experience that transforms the way our members engage with us. This transformation begins with reducing effort. In “Member Effort Benchmarking: Measuring Ease of Use,” Filene identified that credit unions have an opportunity to significantly reduce effort in two areas: Improving communication throughout the mortgage loan process and making handoffs between channels and people less cumbersome. Developing a strategy for member experience grounded in ease of use can powerfully improve and deepen current relationships and attract new members.
3. Make the honeymoon last. While each time we connect with our members matters, their initial experiences with us have the possibility to either deepen and grow their loyalty or potentially leave a negative impression that we struggle to overcome. According to “Balancing Member Service with Organizational Efficiency,” 80% of the members of any credit union erode 50% of the net income contributions of the top-performing 20% of members. If credit unions can deepen engagement early and often, the credit union will function more effectively as a cooperative. Filene's pilot test with Onboardability gives credit unions the opportunity to maximize constrained resources, map the right sequence of contact, and message through the best channels to meet members where they are.
4. Don't innovate. Instead, become an innovator. We are all sick of the buzzword, but the reality is that in order to survive, credit unions must innovate. That takes cultural change. Find a methodology that your team can learn and start to integrate it into who you are. Transform activity into infrastructure.
5. Fight for your right to be the best. The war for talent is real. Finding smart, passionate, mission-driven and dedicated future leaders is only the start. Growing and retaining this talent demands focus, planning and investment. In Filene's report, “More Than Just Talk: Leadership Coaching Opportunities for Credit Unions,” Linda Young explored the value of leadership to a credit union, definitions of coaching and leadership and the potential positive impact of investing in coaching.
The day of the wedding, MacKenzie's confidence had grown. She had resources, she’d practiced, she’d tried some things that failed, and ultimately, she knew she had support. As I waited with her before the wedding started, she eventually told me, “Mom I got this. You can go sit down.” She smiled as she walked. We couldn't have been more proud. More importantly, she was proud of herself. She’d worked through her fear and tried something new.
It's time for your credit union to take one of these five items and dive in. While your fear may be real, your members and your team will be proud as you continue to make your organization even stronger, ultimately creating the possibility for people to have a brighter financial future.
Tansley Stearns is Chief Impact Officer for Filene Research Institute. She can be reached at 203-859-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.