A name change. Some credit unions may feel like everyone’s on the bandwagon, but are unsure of the long-term benefits to the organization. Some may say, `we recognize the need for change, but a name change is a significant move and we’re concerned about losing our focus – on our core group of members, on our mission, or on our culture.’ Credit unions, by their very nature, are rooted in deep emotional ties to their original sponsor and history. But it is this same organic quality of the organizations that causes some to grow and change over the years in the effort of best serving their members and strengthening the credit union overall. Name changes – and the strategic and visual processes that attend them – may become necessary in order to evolve to a fully inclusive credit union with the foundation for continued growth. We have worked with many boards and senior management teams from credit unions to address one of their largest concerns: are we losing our focus on who and what got us here in the first place? What we’ve observed are some common threads among these credit unions. * Almost all had evolved to a multi-faceted field of membership, with only 20% to 30% of their current membership linked to their founding field of membership. * While most potential SEGs were very interested in the value credit union membership would bring to their employee benefits package, many were resistant to partner with certain credit unions because the name didn’t connect with their organization. * After a community charter conversion a temporary spike in membership only lasted about 12 to 18 months – and then returned to original levels. * When the name projected “exclusivity,” often a significant portion of the marketing budget was spent on explaining membership eligibility. * Many of the credit unions had growth goals for assets and loans that were only achievable through increased membership. * In all cases, we found their concerns about losing focus grew quickly to a deeper understanding of how much additional focus they would actually gain from the process of developing a new name and brand identity. It is the discovery process of a name change – as opposed to the name change itself – that begins to bring deeper focus to a credit union’s daily business and relationships. Thorough evaluation of the guiding principles of the credit union, such as the mission statement, vision statement, brand position and attributes, will reveal any dissonance between where the credit union is today relative to both yesterday and tomorrow. Such self-reflection, when guided by a seasoned industry expert, is a great opportunity to revisit a credit union’s goals and objectives from all perspectives – the executive team, members, and prospective members in the community. A clearer focus often helps the board better see the future of the credit union, what it has evolved into, and who it will serve and focus on in the future – with a refreshed purpose and synergy that launches the organization toward its goals. A credit union’s employees can be its best brand “stewards,” by protecting and managing the brand. In refreshing your focus, you give the team a clearer understanding of the credit union’s mission – which, in turn, gives them a clearer direction for serving the membership. A credit union’s mission, just as for a Fortune 500 company, should be the benchmark for all decisions made, from the largest to the smallest. If it doesn’t support the brand position, or further the credit union’s mission, an action should be reevaluated. Karl Albrecht, in his time-tested book At America’s Service: How Your Company Can Join the Customer Service Revolution, describes the “moment of truth,” an episode in which the customer comes into contact with any aspect of an organization, and the potential for the employee to handle it in such a way as to maximize the positive impact on the customer – or at least minimize the negative impact. Having the credit union’s guiding principles be top of mind to all team members, and in complete clarity, can benefit the members tremendously. It is that focus which continues to build the brand. So, what’s in a name? It can mean benefits, both tangible and intangible, to the credit union and your members. Consider what your potential is, and how this renewed focus can bring about change in your organization. Where you have come from is just as important as where you are going – and both can become part of who you are with an effective name change program.
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