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'14 in 14' Lucky Horseshoe CU Growth Strategies
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 6:30 AM

2014 is the year of the Horse, and according to the Chinese, the horse is strong and naturally lucky when it comes to money resources. So Southwest CUNA Management School Senior Faculty Strategist John Vardallas, CAE, CUDE, says using good “Horse Sense” about the financial market place will be a harbinger for credit union leadership as we head into the New Year.

“Overall many aspects of the current American economic landscape have caused many of us to shift and use more common sense engagement in serving members,” notes Vardallas. “The credit union movement has always faced challenging times. However the times we are facing can be considered critical for the future growth and survival of our credit unions and the millions of members who have entrusted us as their guardian financial stewards.”

According to Vardallas, there is mixed good news these days. Regulation is getting tighter and more uncertain. Overall net membership and loan growth is increasing. Net interest margins and operating expenses are improving. CEO and board leadership are in transition. Inflation is flat, interest rates are at low levels and the housing market is recovering. However, Vardallas points out that there is high unemployment, stagnant household income and taxes are going up.

“This is the year for credit unions to really step up, and help members respond to the ‘new economic Normal’ to improve their financial lifestyle and well-being,” says Vardallas.

Vardallas offers the following “14 in 14” suggestions for setting a course to not just survive but thrive: 

  1. Work the “back yard.” Focus on deepening relationships (more wallet share) with your current members. Get close and really get to know your members.
  2. Review your fee structures for market place adjustments. “I am not suggesting we gouge our members, only that we alter fees based on the local marketplace,” he says. “We still will be the best deal in town.”
  3. Have a collaboration, partnership, and alliance and merger policy/strategy.
  4. Train staff to cross serve/sell and wow members at every touch point opportunity 7x24x365. Embrace being a “Member- Centric” credit union. All staff, volunteers and vendors should be advocates for your credit union.
  5. Use good on boarding practices to reconnect and engage current and new members by offering incentives--(Buy local Groupon/ miles/reward programs/prepaid cards/cash back/free credit reports) and concierge services to empower them to connect. Give members real reasons for being a member, not just a customer. Membership should have its privileges. Offer Certificate of Member Ownership/Toll Free 800 Member Care number.
  6. Create a strategy to reach out to serve new Americans and the underserved. “We are at the point now for action in really reaching out to consumers (Hispanics/Immigrants) in our communities and bringing them into our credit union family,” suggests Vardallas.
  7. Embrace mobile/tablet technology and social media. Utilize innovative ideas to create “Apps for This and That” and do not fear Facebook and learn to Tweet!
  8. Offer tax/legal (Wills) Services and end of life (Burial) loans. Look for non-traditional services that your members could really benefit.
  9. Reach out to young adults and women via micro lending, small business services, HSA’s and lifestyle lending products.
  10. Consider starting a CUSO to offer insurance/travel/HR/IT/DP/products & services.
  11. Stop asking Gen Y why they do that? Make it a strategic imperative to appeal to and attract more youth and young adults. The under 30 demographic is your next generation of lending business and lifelong members for your credit union.
  12. Focus more on diverse non-interest income streams (Debit cards/GAP coverage/credit/debt protection/investments/brokerage services) to help improve your bottom line.
  13. Get the right staff in the right seats on your credit union bus to serve members effectively. Empower them to serve as well as teach members how to use your technology to self-serve themselves.
  14. Reach out to boomer/senior members with retirement planning and long-term health care products/services.

“If we are not only to survive in the future but thrive, we will have to develop a different strategic mind set about growth,” continues Vardallas. “Our Leaders will have to strategically focus more on innovation vs. tradition and execute faster at a greater level than the competition. Credit unions will need to fine tune, hone and focus on our commitment to members to keep up in the fast paced changing financial services derby. “


Helpful resources:

Southwest CUNA Management School (SCMS) is a three-year course of study recognized in the credit union movement for innovative, intense, hands-on professional development.  SCMS offers a variety of courses designed to challenge, broaden financial industry knowledge, and sharpen management skills. 

Through Credit Union Resources’ OnBalance, credit unions have access to strategic planning and consulting services. When it comes to strategic planning, credit unions can choose the balanced scorecard approach, which is a strategic management system that helps organizations translate their strategies into objectives that drive both behavior and performance, or traditional strategic planning, which gives credit unions an excellent venue to create a strategy for the future success of the organization. Volunteer development and board training effectiveness are also available through OnBalance.

Cornerstone has a Hispanic outreach program, Juntos Avanzamos, to help credit unions be more effective in reaching this important; yet highlight underserved segment of the population. The goal of Juntos Avanzamos is to identify credit unions that have the infrastructure, as well as the capacity, commitment and compassion to serve the financial needs of Hispanic families.

Through a generous grant from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation, Cornerstone is able to offer a REAL Solutions program. The signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation, REAL Solutions has the goal of helping credit unions offer services that have been proven successful for people of modest means and low wealth. REAL stands for “Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing.” Cornerstone REAL Solutions’ credit unions have access to an online toolkit.

Cornerstone has a young credit union professional initiative and this entrepreneurial-group of young credit union professionals are helping to break down barriers to collaboration, catalyze change in the system, and spark positive growth in our communities.

Throughout the year, Cornerstone offers a wealth of specialized training programs, including conferences, seminars, workshops and webinars, to help credit union staff and volunteers develop personally and professionally. And to make these training opportunities more affordable, the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation offers professional development grants.