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A Former CU Executive Now in For-Profit World Offers Some Insights to CU Land

I recently had dinner with a former credit union executive who is one of the sharpest people I've ever worked with. Gina Maria Sacripanti spent 16 years in CU management. Two years ago she graduated magna cum laude from George Washington University's highly ranked MBA program. She then left her post as COO of FDIC FCU to become director of business development & marketing for the Washington Examiner.

I couldn't wait to ask Gina, "Now that you've been out of credit unions for two years what is the one main difference between your new corporate world and credit unions?"

Gina stammered a bit and considered some ideas. Finally she paused and summarized the difference in one short sentence, "Where's the cash?" She reported that everything she does in the corporate world revolves around profit.

Gina said she just negotiated a highly profitable deal. When she met with her VP and explained the deal the simple response was, "Great, so what are you working on next?" With a pat on the back, the celebration was over. Gina delivered profit-she was just doing her job.

With her new perspective I asked Gina to share her observations on "credit union land." Here are her thoughts:

  • CUs do not market or brand themselves based on the differences that make them attractive to consumers. They do not effectively communicate to members and prospective members the benefits they offer.
  • CUs need better long-term strategic positioning to leverage different or new streams of income.
  • Finally Gina remarked that CU staffs have no idea how good they have it. In her corporate world if you don't perform you are fired-period. Credit union staffs make good wages with great benefits; they enjoy supportive working environments and most have no performance standards required to keep their jobs. They have no idea the pressure and performance demand corporate employees face to earn the same money they do.
Gina nailed some critical brand essentials for us to consider:
  • There is a lack of internal and external understanding of credit union mission, values and benefits.
  • Credit unions need to find new ways to leverage their brand value to develop new revenue streams. This will add value for their members and help them navigate in a more competitive financial services marketplace.
  • Staff brand awareness should translate into non-stop education of members on the benefits of the credit union. Staff should always be informing the members of all the ways the credit union can help protect their financial future.
In our current turbulent environment it's time to take a step back and focus in on the core ideals that set us apart. Then we must become more sophisticated and aggressive at building our member bases and at increasing product and service penetration. In a world accustomed to answering "What will make my members happy?" It's time for all of us to start thinking more about "Where's the cash?" That's what it's going to take to survive and thrive in our new economy-and ultimately that is what will make our members happy.

Paul J Lucas is a national marketing and branding consultant. For more information log on to www.PaulJLucas.com or email paul@pauljlucas.com.

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