What You Should Know From Grow Show: Don’t Think ‘Growth’

Thinking about growing your credit union? Have growth at the heart of your strategic plan? Do you, the board and the management team spend time talking about growth? Big mistake!

If there was a clear theme at the industry-pioneering Grow Show hosted by Credit Union Journal last week in Orlando it was that the nation’s fastest-growing credit unions aren’t obsessed with growth at all. Instead, growth of all kinds–membership, assets, ROA, revenue, even community perception–is just the attractive balance sheet byproduct of delivering value to members. As one speaker, Neil Goldman observed, “Growth is an end, not a means.”

Sometimes someone can come into your own home and point something out you hadn’t noticed before, and as I sat and listened to the nearly two-dozen experts who shared their insights and lessons learned with attendees at Grow Show it occurred to me there were some ironies and parallels at work. Credit Union Journal itself is an example of that message shared by the CEOs of those leading credit unions. Since its inception, but especially over the past two years, the Journal’s editorial coverage and reporting have been focused on precisely what readers have asked us for: concise, fresh reporting on strategies that lead to growth in all aspects of the cooperative enterprise. The Grow Show itself is in response to demand from the credit union community. During the past two years Credit Union Journal has enjoyed its strongest growth ever in both advertising and paid subscribers.

And it must be working–among those who paid to attend Grow Show was the publisher of that other newsweekly in credit unions.

In the coming weeks we’ll provide an overview of all that was shared in Orlando, and consider this your invitation to attend Grow Show 09. Below are just a fraction of some of the highlights, observations and insights presented to attendees at this year’s event.

From Neil Goldman of Member Research:

* In every major competitive category with the exception of checking, there is a focused financial provider who owns that market. The problem with being a PFI is that it’s not very focused.

* There may not be a direct line between happy employees and happy members, but can you think of a credit union where the employees are really unhappy and the members are happy?

* Credit unions are generally ranked by consumers higher than banks; if the survey is done by phone it’s highest, if by e-mail, it’s lowest.

* We know about extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. What’s more powerful than both is transcendent motivation, the motivation of the soul collectively in the organization.

Andy Mattingly of FORUM Credit Union shared how that credit union has grown by using its own members as its marketers. “In this economy the first thing to get cut is marketing – I want you to think about innovations before your budget gets cut,” Mattingly said, sharing some of the humorous messages FORUM has used in marketing, such as “Yes, it’s pennies a day. But it’s every day.”

But the messages that have been most effective came right out of its own members’ mouths, including: “Rewards Checking is like finding $10 on the ground every month;” “If I could find a man like FORUM, I’d be married;” “We’re bringing up our daughters the FORUM way,” and “FORUM makes me giddy.”

Teresa Freeborn, CEO of Xceed Financial CU (the former Xerox Federal), laid out that CU’s aggressive, focused plans, and cut to the chase in much of what she offered, including:

* “I don’t think there is a shortage of exciting ideas. I think what it comes down to is a lack of willingness to execute them.”

* “Convenience will continue to be the prime driver of market share.”

* “Consumers are being extremely frustrated with the excessive bank fees that are out there. I think here credit unions are notorious of having a little better at lower fees, but what we’re not very good at is telling people about that.”

* “Control + Alt + Delete is the new mantra. We had to gut our credit union before our competitors did it.”

* “Growing isn’t just about getting bigger to get bigger. Growth is a result, not an objective. You get better or you get worse, there is no Door No. 3.”

* “Hearing credit union managers explain away their growth problems is a little like listening to addicts in denial. Growth is a choice. It’s up to you to decide if you want to grow your credit union.”

* “Most SEG programs are boring. Really boring. We’ve invested close to $1 million per year in staffing and programs related to nothing but SEG relationships. We don’t leave this up to branch managers; they’re far too busy. Our BDOs travel with popcorn makers. Nothing brings a crowd faster than a bag of popcorn.”

From CUNA Mutual’s Jeff Hunt:

* “Baby boomers want to have an adventurous retirement. They want to have grandkids, but not be called grandparents.”

* “The IRA in your credit unions look like a product designed in the 1970s; the Walkman of financial services.”

* “We want to stay ahead of banks in terms of how we make the process for purchasing choices. Do you have content buckets on retirement on your website? They are not impulse buyers on large purchases. They are going to inform themselves and think about it.”

I’ll have more from Grow Show next week.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann<at>cujournal.com. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com