Insights From CO-OP's THINK 13

If you don't care for disruption, then you should have avoided Chicago last week.

Disruption was all that the 500-plus credit union folks inside the Suissotel could THINK about.

And yet even after all the insights from a diverse group of experts and others from outside credit unions, all of the talk about disruptions was disrupted itself. You'd think disruption would be a pretty simple, albeit uncomfortable, condition: someone or something is headed in one direction, when suddenly the trend line is forcibly turned in another or even torn to parts.

As it turns out, disruption isn't simple at all. It can be hard to define, harder to see and, hardest of all, to effectively respond to. As a distinguished business professor related, one company that did everything right in reaction to an interruption in their business got exactly the results it was looking for, and nearly went bankrupt as a result.

All the talk of disruption took place at CO-OP Financial Services THINK '13 Conference last week where the theme was "Disrupt business as usual." But it seems those four words can be pretty confounding. For credit unions, after watching their business interrupted by a deep economic recession and now seeing improving bottom lines, many are not looking to disrupt anything. And what should be disrupted? The entire business model? That seems unlikely, and in favor of what? Pieces of the business? Which pieces?

In this issue of Credit Union Journal and the next we'll share some of the perspectives on the process of business interruption as shared by that college professor and another, the president of Dunkin' Donuts, a TV "shark," a big city mayor, an innovative musician and entrepreneur, and more.

At the THINK '13 meeting, CO-OP gave every attendee a fist-sized ball made of multi-colored rubber bands. At one person's place I saw they had deconstructed that ball and left just the pile of rubber bands. After listening to all these viewpoints, your challenge is to figure out how to put the ball back together again-or even if you should.

Meanwhile, here are some other notes out of THINK to think about:


* After CO-OP CEO Stan Hollen was introduced as VP, he remarked, "Well, it's nice to start out with a demotion."

Among other notes from Hollen, he reminded that the newly rebranded CO-OP ATM has more ATMs in its network than the next two largest bank ATM networks combined, and that 10,000 of those ATMs are deposit taking. There are currently 5,000 shared branches in the also-newly rebranded CO-OP Shared Branching, which trails the nation's largest bank branch network, Wells Fargo, which has 6,832. But he reminded that there are still 16,000 branches in the country that are not in shared branching.

Hollen also announced that Sprig, CO-OP's P2P Solution, will soon be expanding to pay anyone, regardless of whether they are on the shared branch network or not.


* Scott Belsky, an author and expert on helping organizations bring ideas to fruition, pointed to the "sobering reatlization" that everyone is now subjected to an "endless stream" of e-mails, texts, LinkedIn updates, etc. "We are being overwhelmed with 'stuff' at any given moment. You start to live a life where we are simply pecking away at the collective inboxes around us. We become reactive rather than proactive. It's the era of reactionary workflow. The final frontier of uninterrupted thinking is the shower, and now we have shower media centers."

As Belsky was sharing that observation I looked to the audience and it was hard to miss the fact at least half the people were staring at tablets and laptops, or looking to phones they were holding in their laps to check those e-mails, texts, LinkedIn updates, etc.


* CUNA CEO Bill Cheney urged credit unions to do a little disruption themselves, in this case by disrupting how consumers do business. He urged his audience to get behind CUNA's "Unite for Good" campaign, which has a goal of having 50 million PFI members and $20 billion in annual benefits to members by 2023 (up from the current 40 million and $6 billion, respectively).

"To achieve that, we must unite for good by removing barriers, creating awareness and fostering service excellence. We need to talk about the values we drive to consumers. Fostering service excellence is probably the most difficult, but probably the most important, so that when people go to credit unions they have an experience that not just keeps them as members, but attracts other members.


* Dunkin' Donuts CEO John Costello had some interesting observations on social media, urging credit unions to "embrace the power of social media but not the hype."

"Social media remains an opportunity for the financial industry. One of the most important marketing methods remains 'recommended by a friend,'" he observed. "But remember that social media is a dialogue, not advertising. Make it involving, relevant and fun, and worth the time investment by consumers. The most effective social media is what's important to the recipient, not the source."


* When the lights and the Powerpoint failed during the presentation by one speaker who was talking about innovatio, an audience member called out, "Time to innovate!"

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.