13 Critical Initiatives CUs Should Implement In 2013

2013 is the year of the snake. The snake is smart, coy and clever, but it is also ready to strike at any time, leaving a sense of those around it to always be guarded.

Many aspects of the current American economic landscape have led to a sense of "guarded optimism." The credit union movement has always faced challenging times. But this is the year to strike while credit unions continue to feel the positive affects of Bank Transfer Day. I would offer these 13 in '13 suggestions for setting a course to not just survive but thrive:

1) Work the Back Yard. Focus on deepening relationships (more wallet share) with your current members. Get close and really get to know your members.

2) Review your fee structures for marketplace adjustments. I am not suggesting we gouge our members, only that we alter fees based on the local marketplace. We still will be the best deal in town.

3) Have a partnership, alliance and merger policy/strategy.

4) Train staff to cross serve/sell and wow members at every touch point opportunity 7x24x365. All staff and volunteers should be advocates for your credit union.

5) Reconnect with current and new members by offering incentives, (groupon/miles/rewards/prepaid cards/cash) and empower them to connect. Give members real reasons for being a member, not just a customer. Membership should have its privileges.

6) Have a strategy to reach out to serve new Americans and the underserved. We are at the point now for action in really reaching out to consumers in our communities and bringing them into our credit union family.

7) Embrace Mobile/Tablet Technology and Social Media. Utilize innovative ideas to create "apps for this and that" and do not fear Facebook!

8) Offer Tax/Legal (Wills) and End of Life (Burial), and Lifestyle loans. Look for non-traditional services that your members could really benefit

9) Reach out to Boomers and women via small business services and HSA's/lifestyle lending products.

10) Consider starting a CUSO to offer Insurance/Travel/HR/IT/DP/products and services.

11) Stop asking Gen Y "Why do they do that?" Make it a strategic imperative to appeal to and attract more youth and young adults. The under-30 demographic is your next generation of lending business and lifelong members for your credit union.

12) Focus more on non interest income such as debit cards, GAP coverage, credit protection, investments and brokerage services.

13) Get the right staff in the right seats on your CU Bus to serve members effectively.

The credit union movement in the United States is now more than 100 years old and is in a mature stage of development. If we are not only to survive in the future but thrive, we will have to develop a different strategic mind set about growth. Leaders need to think strategically, innovate and execute faster than the competition.

Our credit unions will need to fine tune, hone and focus our energies that are clearly defined and with a commitment to achieve them.

John A. Vardallas, CEO of TheAmericanBoomeR Group, Madison, Wis. For info: www.theamericanboomer.com.