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Any organization in the financial services industry today should really be on their toes and looking for new, very different profit and growth avenues. And I definitely don’t mean working harder at the more of the same old business routines. This industry has and is still going through major, permanent change. Along with this comes a great-once in a lifetime-opportunity for growth and new profits for credit unions.The financial services market and the world’s economy have some big lumps to absorb, but this is still a very important and rare time for those who collect and lend money. It is positively not the time to crawl into a foxhole and wait for the difficult times to blow over. It’s the time winners become active participants.Yes, credit unions, there are problems with car and home loan demand and loans in general. But this only underscores the importance of credit unions taking a very hard look at the way they have been conducting business for so many years. If credit unions have funds to lend, it is the time to raise rates and take advantage of the old rule of supply and demand.Many banks can’t or won’t lend money. They are reluctant to lend even to blue chip borrowers. Even with government bailout help, the loans aren’t coming out. This means those borrowers who must borrow have to look elsewhere, and some of them have to accept that it will now cost more. So why can’t credit unions capitalize on this unique situation?As I see it, the problem with many credit unions is their management doesn’t see just how strong an advantage they now have over many other lenders. Furthermore, they are not adapting to the financial market changes that are now occurring and will become permanent.Of course, not all credit unions are guilty of this management malaise and archaic thinking. Some have seen and acted on the fact that they can and should do more than their original charter called for. They have modified such things as membership requirements and geographical boundaries.Some are actively seeking out membership from small businesses. They have embraced small business owners and show them the value of being a credit union member versus a bank customer.I admire and applaud those who have taken these steps to better provide results to members. They modernized their organizations to be more competitive and more prosperous, giving even more benefits to their members. At this moment in our country’s history, small business owners need, want and appreciate interest from those more informed of financial dealings than they are.As a credit union member, I would hope those who manage my monies are keeping a close eye on those changes that affect the appreciation of my investment. I would expect them to be open-minded and to explore new ways to grow my investment and not just sit there like some bureaucrat.However, the benefits from soliciting small business won’t happen overnight for credit unions. Success requires a keen awareness and education campaign both internally and externally.Paramount to an external campaign is that the credit union must adopt a more proactive selling attitude as opposed to the typical passive, member-service posture. This requires strong, clear and direct communications to acclimate members, staff and general public in the targeted market segment on what and why this change is needed.Today’s financial services’ shopper is much more aware of good options and more confident to try new ways and ideas.The world’s problems have presented a wonderful opportunity to win big. Please think more outside your current thought-process box and explore new ways to better service your membership’s investment.

Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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