Five to Thrive: A Strategic Guide for Small Credit Unions

“What are the top five things to be done to foster small credit union sustainability?” CUNA recently asked representatives of small credit unions, state leagues, and industry experts.  

Their answers revealed there are no magic formulas.  However, five main strategies emerged, that when incorporated, help small credit unions thrive in a competitive financial services marketplace.  

These strategic guidelines and tactics for small credit union success are outlined in a new CUNA report, Five to Thrive: A Strategic Guide for Small Credit Unions.    

The report covers each prevalent issue in-depth, providing best business practice “how to” suggestions as well as unique anecdotal evidence and specific case studies of small credit unions that have implemented these strategies with success.   

Key takeaways:  

  • Differentiate.  Credit unions that emphasize their unique products and services as they focus on meeting needs of particular consumer groups will differentiate and foster loyalty.
  • Be consultative.  Consumers have specific financial needs small credit unions are uniquely poised to meet in a distinctive way via discussion, understanding, and personalized response.
  • Appropriate pricing.  Consider best pricing strategies to meet objectives; striving to be the low-price leader may not be optimal.
  • Make lending a priority.  Creative approaches to lending such as loan participations or making “story loans” are reasonable options in growing loans.  Exploring niche markets can prove beneficial.
  • Use of available resources.  Collaborations, networking, and investigation of various government designations and resources provide opportunity to cultivate growth and recognize new efficiencies.  

“Small credit unions face large and growing challenges,” says CUNA Small Credit Union Committee Chair Debie Keesee, CEO of Spokane Media FCU in Spokane, Washington.  “Running a credit union with limited resources means there’s a danger of getting bogged down with operational details and day-to-day tasks while missing out on the big-picture, strategic issues that can help navigate around the obstacles and serve members more effectively.”  

“Our goal in producing Five to Thrive was simply to collect and share proven elements of success,” Keesee continues.  “These aren’t earth-shattering revelations—but common-sense reminders of what can help smaller shops excel on a consistent basis.  It’s a terrific strategic planning resource for smaller credit unions.”