The greater the challenge the more fun Bill Clancy, vice president of retail strategy at Lake Michigan Credit Union, has trying to figure out a solution.
“I love to be challenged. It’s about rising up to achieve success in whatever that challenge may be, whether improving member experiences, building awareness of the reasons why credit unions are a better choice or just learning new things,” said Clancy, who has been with the $2.6 billion Grand Rapids, Mich.-based credit union for eight years. “It’s what motivates and drives me every day.”
It also motivated his selection as the newest Trailblazer 40 Below by Credit Union Times.
Always up for new experiences and ready to take a chance, Clancy’s journey to credit unions was similar to many in the industry, a happy accident. After six years in banking, a move back to Michigan from Chicago to be closer to family, ignited a fire for an industry he knew little about.
“I had job offers from two banks and a credit union,” said Clancy. “I’d been a credit union member in college but didn’t know much from the employment side. My interest peaked during the interview process because it resonated with my personal philosophy of doing the right thing for the right reason. So I took the leap. Honestly, my experience at LMCU, what the industry does as a whole for consumers, it’s been such a fantastic fit that I can’t see ever leaving it.”
A self-described optimist, Clancy tries to share that sense of viewing the daily challenges of life and work as opportunities to do more with his teams.
“I challenge myself every day both personally and professionally. I think we all want to be respected, treated right and find fulfillment in our jobs. By challenging others, I see it as a way to try to give them the opportunity to feel fulfilled and accomplished. It makes work exciting to change it up,” said Clancy. “Whether it’s challenging them to go to that next level in their career or expanding their skill set, it’s about giving the opportunity to take ownership. Saying this is the situation, here is the objective now you get there. I see it as everyone has the skills to do more just not always the opportunity until now. To be given the autonomy and understand that belief in them, that they can and will be successful, I think inspires and pushes us all.”
For Clancy, the continued journey matters as much as the end result, particularly when it comes to innovation.
“Most look for this one seminal moment that you can point to that was huge where you went from A to B,” said Clancy. “The reality is that innovation it is the millions of small and incremental changes made over the course of a month, year or several years, that you don’t necessarily notice in the day-to-day. You see it when you look back over time. With innovation it’s about being committed to trying new things and I’m a big proponent of failing forward. You learn as much if not more from failing as when you succeed because you know what doesn’t work. As you get through those failures, they are providing learning opportunities that will help strategically refine and improve the next attempts. It evolves based on what works, seeking input and feedback.”
He added that it’s the teamwork and collaborative environment across the organization that has been key to delivering relevant initiatives. For example, LMCU’s Quarterly Retail Star Performers Luncheons was created to shine the spotlight on 15 outstanding performers from the retail delivery branches and call centers. It has not only recognized those employees who are essentially the face of the credit union yet can feel overlooked or underappreciated, but has also given them an opportunity to network and share best practices. The goodwill generated by the program has also been an overall positive boon, adding more value to the cooperative culture at LMCU. In addition, it helped in the formation of a Gen Y Advisory Panel consisting of 12 from across all business units. The panel serves as an ongoing innovation resource and sounding board for LMCU’s Gen Y targeted products, services and marketing campaigns. As a result of their input the credit union has been exploring a new rewards checking account, credit card and social initiative customized for the Gen Y consumer’s specific likes and needs.
He has also help found and serves as president of LMCU’s Toastmasters Club, which boasts some 30 members across the organization interested in developing presentation, public speaking and leadership skills. “At an organizational level, it’s a thrill to work for and alongside such a talented, smart, dedicated group of visionaries in an environment where we have the opportunity to figure out ways to positively impact our members on a daily basis by focusing on what makes sense for them,” said Clancy.
Passionate about doing his part to help further the industry, he and 2011 Next Top CU Exec/fellow Trailblazer 40 Below Devin Selte of Servus Credit Union blog about issues facing credit unions on 2CUGuys.wordpress.com. An active member of the Cooperative Trust, Clancy and Jayson Peters, IT manager at Wyandotte Federal Credit Union, recently teamed up to work with the Michigan Credit Union League to develop the program for a Crash Michigan event. Clancy also helped lead the group of young professionals before, during and after the event. To him, there’s never been a better time to be working in credit unions.
“I think the stage is set for the industry as a whole to be successful more so than in the past. It’s about communicating our value proposition, increasing our share of wallet and keeping us relevant,” said Clancy. “It also ties into a few areas of concern. We only own 6% of assets in the banking market so we remain a small player in the overall picture and the regulatory burdens aren’t helping, as fulfilling them takes time away from our primary focus of delivering relevant, valuable solutions to our members. Our industry is also hit or miss in terms of collaboration. We could do a better job of working together to consolidate back office functions or just gain economies of scale for smaller shops, to give us more of a competitive advantage in the battle against big banks. We should use that small player status to our advantage by being more nimble and agile. We’re not doing that today to the extent we could.”
Looking ahead, he’d like more credit unions to question if they are embracing technology and explore how they are using it.
“Technology is a huge equalizer in terms of consumer convenience and value. As we deploy technology how are we leveraging that to our advantage to impact members in a positive way?” said Clancy. “Otherwise it’s going to be an uphill battle as the competition has the advantage of size and scope. We need to use size to our advantage and rather than being a follower be more cutting edge.”
He added the importance of mobile related technology cannot be overstated.
“Given the adoption rate of smart phones and tablets by consumers, their expectations are going to get to the point where mobile technology is considered table stakes. We need to have it sooner rather than later so we as an industry are ready to go once the two converge and the mobile payments platform is decided. That is not the time for us to be figuring it out,” said Clancy.
For him it boils down to having people think along the lines of failing forward by being willing to take risks that are appropriate, make sense and ultimately drives value up throughout the organization to the members.
“Our industry is filled with a lot of smart, really passionate people who are truly committed. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking action and appreciating the value in trying and failing to net positive gains in the long run,” said Clancy. “Even a colossal failure won’t destroy the credit union. As long as the risks taken won’t jeopardize jobs or the solvency of the credit union, it will be O.K.” n