CU Assumptions Challenged: CU Water Cooler
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Ways the credit union industry can remain relevant and thrive were discussed during a Not for CEOs panel during the CU Water Cooler Symposium at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts here.
Credit Union Times Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Sarah Snell Cooke moderated the panel with expert panelists: James Robert Lay, CEO of digital marketing firm CU Grow; Andy Janning, CEO of leadership firm NO NET Solutions; Jimmy Marks, creative media director at Digital Mailer; Ron Shevlin, senior analyst at Aite Group; and Amy Ethridge, electronic marketing coordinator for the $1.8 billion Robins Federal Credit Union.
Missed the live event? Catch the video highlights:
Rethinking human resources, pushing past fear.
Member service as a differentiator.
Attracting young professionals to your workplace.
Internal investing, where and now.
Questioning best kept secret status.
All topics were up for debate, and what emerged was the sense that there was a need for credit unions to dig deeper into their mission and purpose. And to bring sexy back to banking, Marks questioned marketing credit unions as a more desirable place to work or even bank, particularly within the younger generation.
“How many kids walk into a credit union and see something other than a bank,” said Marks. “You see pens chained to a desk and people behind a teller line. Where are you going to start seeing those human stories? “
“It goes back to redefining, reviewing the mission and purpose, having a clear understanding of why do we exist,” Lay said. “If we look at business theory that mission drives the organization then reevaluate and see if yours is relevant or even the same as it was. Step back and look at how the people, products and process support that mission, vision and purpose.”
In the audience, William Azaroff, who kicked of the symposium with the idea of a mission grounded making an impact in local communities, agreed.
“If you move beyond member service, you will attract people who will want to work at a credit union,” said the director of business and community development for the $16 billion Vancouver, British Columbia-based Vancity Credit Union. “If you are not attracting people, maybe you’re doing something wrong and no one knows why they’d want to work there, bank there or be a part of that organization.”
Janning added that too often recruitment or succession planning is erroneously viewed as something done by human resources.
“It’s every person’s job to find their replacement. If you are looking to HR or senior management, you’re doing it wrong,” Janning said. “I would love if CEOs would go in and say ‘I view this as a temp job for just 4 -5 years, and after 5 years you get to evaluate me and see if I shuffle off.’ Why not take the elected official approach? We do it for people who lead the country, why not do it for people who lead our credit unions?
Shevlin also challenged the idea of the commonly accepted belief that credit unions are a best kept secret.
“There are 93 million credit union members in the United States, so one out of every 3.5 people is a member,” he said. “That best kept secret is an excuse for why the marketing is failing.”
Shevlin added consumer apathy is one of the biggest barriers facing banks and credit unions alike.
“While money is important to us, we really, really hate managing it,” he said. “People spend more time on what video to rent or (at what) restaurant to eat, than their finances. If you can get consumers more engaged in their financial lives, then they’ll become more engaged with you. Financial institutions don’t have enough in their bag of tricks to generate new revenue, they need new products and services that consumers want to pay for willingly, not overdraft fees or ATM fees.”
In addition to investing in product development, panelists agreed given how people are struggling today, there’s an opportunity for credit unions to shine and make it cool to get consumers to rally behind the impact they make in their communities.
“We are in the living life business, and once we understand that, our relationship with the people who pay our paycheck changes,” Janning said. “Stop bank bashing. If we aren’t helping people live better lives and get some excitement about that then we need to get out.”