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The Mind of the Member Who's Also on the Board
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 6:30 AM

Jeff Rendel

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

For many credit unions, autumn brings offsite planning sessions designed to dream, design, and determine strategic plans for a given credit union’s future over the next several years. Strategic planning sessions are also a nice “thank you” for volunteers who serve their credit unions. And, while boards appropriately act as representatives of the membership, it’s vital to gain their insight as credit union members.

At strategic planning sessions, a prominent question is often asked by management teams and boards of directors: How do we best delineate the proper role of the board as it relates to the strategies tasked to management? It’s a commonplace challenge for boards and executive teams of all sizes and shapes of credit unions. Governance models assist the process; board-led deliberations concerning appropriate levels of engagement benefit all; and board-designed expectations and accountability actions are supportive as well.

However, what if your board of directors opened your strategic planning session with its answers to a simple, yet revealing, question: As a member, what do you expect and want from your credit union? While your board continues to fulfill its governance-associated responsibilities—fiduciary obligation, oversight of the CEO, compliance with laws and regulations, fiscal stewardship, and more—understanding the board as a group of credit union members offers great insight. And, often, it is congruent with the plans that management teams have for moving credit unions forward.

Boards far and wide have asked this simple question of their individual board members, and, in the process, they have helped their entire board and management team better understand their desires as members of the credit union.

For example, one credit union board provided its answers at the onset of a planning session.

  • “As members, we hope that our credit union will provide the highest dividend rates, lowest loan rates, and most valuable fee-based products in our competitive area.” Price matters, even to members of the board.
  • “As members, we need human access to our credit union.” As much as technology expands and enhances access to a credit union, there are those times when one needs to speak face-to-face or voice-to-voice with a member services representative.
  • “As members, we desire professionals who are experts in bettering our financial position and who provide an assuring experience.” This sounds like a goal of an in-house sales and service consultative culture.
  • “As members, we will first seek technological access to the credit union. That said, we want mobile access to anything we can do in the branch or online.” Mobile banking, remote deposit capture, and e-signatures may well be on the way.
  • “As members, we want the credit union to be around for another 50 years. We value permanence and will commit more of our business to an institution that’s here to stay.” Sustainable profits, strong capital ratios, growth with intent, and community activities help satisfy this need, increasing member loyalty along the way.

Boards are the voice of credit union members; why not hear that voice in a strategic sense? Mix up your next strategic planning session with a simple question for each board member: As a member, what do you expect and want from your credit union?

The answers you receive and the insights they provide may reinforce, enhance, invigorate, and revolutionize the strategic direction of your credit union.

Jeff Rendel, certified speaking professional and president of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy. Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners. Contact:;