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Strategic Planning Helps CUs Position for the Future
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 7:35 AM

It’s always exciting to ponder and discuss new opportunities, products, services and directions; however, it can also be uncomfortable to stop, evaluate and critique your organization…to experience a reality check so to speak.  As tough as this may be, Howard Bufe of Credit Union Resources’ OnBalance says it can be the most rewarding step a credit union can take.

Bufe recently facilitated a strategic planning session for La Joya Area FCU at the Credit Union House in D.C.  According to Bufe, the credit union is quite diligent about planning for their future. He points out that they have achieved significant success over their 50 years in existence.

La Joya Area FCU was chartered in 1961, and has grown from 15 to well over 16,000 members with close to $50 million in assets. 

“As many credit union histories reveal, life is not always easy and many twist and turns must be navigated in order to prosper,” notes Bufe. “But through their dedication and ability to plan strategically La Joya Area FCU has navigated the curve of change and currently are experiencing significant success.”

A couple of years ago, Bufe said the credit union performed a reality check on itself and made some extremely tough decisions. They implemented a strategic direction that has reportedly moved them from negative earnings of 88 basis points in 2012 to a positive ROA of 1.15 percent as of March 31, 2013.

During the recent planning session, Bufe said he was impressed with the credit union’s passion and commitment to growth and meeting the needs of its membership today and well into the future.

In the following Q&A, Bufe shares with Leaguer readers his thoughts on strategic planning.

Question: Why are strategic planning sessions so important?

Bufe: Strategic planning sessions allows credit union leaders the opportunity to spend a day or two focused strictly on the credit union and how to accomplish their mission while achieving your vision through planning and preparation. 

Question: What can credit unions gain from strategic planning sessions?

Bufe: The benefit of a planning session will encompass:

  • Strong commitment from the board and management
  • Meaningful engagement in the process from key stakeholders
  • Development of strategic objectives (Focus)
  • Development of measurable goals, including a series of short-term goals
  • Clearly defined responsibility, authority, and accountability
  • Efficient and effective operational processes
  • The necessary managerial, financial, technological, and organizational resources to achieve goals and objectives.
  • Periodic reassessment of the progress and effectiveness of the strategic plan

Question: How often should CUs hold planning session?

Bufe: How often a credit union should hold a planning session would be dictated by the complexity of the credit union and the significance of external and internal environmental conditions.  Credit unions should monitor their strategic plan on an ongoing basis and re-evaluate the plan at least on an annual basis. 

Question: Who should be involved?

Bufe: Participants in a planning session will vary based on the credit union’s resources.  It’s critical that your board and senior staff be involved and based on resources could include other key members of the staff.

Question: Once a planning session is complete, what's next?

Bufe: Last, but certainly not the least, is the importance of monitoring, evaluating and adjusting the plan on an ongoing basis. While a strategic plan is important and certainly a key component to success, it’s the human element that generate results!

“Challenge yourself to a reality check and discover your organization’s hidden talent,” encouraged Bufe.

To learn more about OnBalance, please visit