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With abundant opportunities today for growth through credit union mergers and acquisitions, organic growth may seem old school and pass?. However, once the economic cycle has shifted to normalcy, I suspect that organic growth may once again become a critical issue for credit unions. We need to start considering now how alliances can serve as a key ingredient in the recipe for growth and credit union service organizations are the ideal partners for collaboration. Our efforts to remain relevant and sustainable can be propelled through collaborative efforts with CUSOs and other partnerships. These alliances provide enhanced resources and expertise, spread the risk of new-business ventures and ultimately give back more value to our members that will cultivate their loyalty. What better way is there for us to gain market share through migrating more consumers to credit union membership? You are probably thinking that all of this sounds good, but how could it work in the real world? One recent venture that we are piloting at Neighborhood Credit Union is an alliance with a local human resources services and staffing firm. They offer our financial services to their clients, and we bundle their services as a benefit to our select employee groups and our business account members. This is a win-win for everyone. For us, it provides the ability to offer an area of expertise-human resource services-that we don’t possess internally. For a small SEG or business that may be struggling in this area, these services could be vital and as their trusted adviser we can gain considerable favor by making the connection. Many of us are looking at small business services to serve the gap that exists because of the unwillingness of other financial institutions to lend. For many credit unions, developing or hiring the specialized skills needed for a full-scale small business program would be daunting and expensive. However, by partnering with a business services CUSO, you can leverage the knowledge of experts and ramp up your speed to market. You may discover that in addition to the small business potential members in your market, your existing members may also have a current need in this area that is not being met. Some of you are looking at how to save the high costs of fraud for your credit union. Have you considered that with the right partner this could be a differentiated service for your members as well? Many members are gullible and completely unaware of fraud schemes that can bilk them out of their hard earned money. Think about how you can use an alliance to promote your commitment to helping your members avoid fraud. A sure fire way to earn loyalty. And, of course, the side benefit is that you scare off the fraudsters and save money on the bottom line. So far, I’ve talked about how you can collaborate with companies or existing CUSOs in the credit union space. But what about forming your own CUSOs to collaborate with other credit unions, enhance revenue and proactively serve your members? And don’t forget about the strategic alliances for no-surcharge ATM networks and shared service center CUSOs. Both of these partnerships expand your footprint and enhance convenience for the members without significant capital expenses. Revenue is generated for those credit unions that participate as an outlet and perform transactions for guest members from other credit unions. I truly think that we again miss what a differentiator this is and how alliances can be represented. There are many more different flavors of CUSOs. The point is to really seize the moment that exists for all of us during these turbulent times. We must be willing to do things differently and to innovate and to collaborate. We can’t and shouldn’t do this alone. We must use our collective strengths and talents to form alliances, partner with existing CUSOs, or where it may make sense, form new CUSOS. The time is right and the time is definitely now for the credit union movement to take center stage and maximize our opportunities for growth and increased market share.

Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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