According to the Chinese calendar, 2014 is the Year of the Horse. The horse is considered strong and naturally lucky when it comes to money resources. So using good "horse sense" about dealing with the economy and financial marketplace will be a harbinger for CU leadership as we head into the New Year.
This is the year for credit unions to really step up and help members respond to the "new normal" to improve their financial well being. I would offer these 14 in 2014 suggestions for setting a course to not just survive but thrive:
1) 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 collaboration/partnership/alliance/merger policy and strategy.
4) Train staff to cross serve/sell and wow members at every touchpoint opportunity 7x24x365. Embrace being a "Member-centric" CU. All staff, volunteers and vendors should be advocates for your credit union.
5) Use good onboarding practices to reconnect and engage current and new members by offering incentives - (Buy local Groupon/ miles/reward programs/prepaid cards/cash back/free credit reports) and concierge services to empower them to connect. Give members real reasons for being a member, not just a customer. Membership should have its privileges. Offer Certificate of Member/Ownership and a toll-free 800 member care number.
6) Create 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 (Hispanics/Immigrants) 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." Do not fear Facebook and learn to Tweet!
8) Offer tax/legal/estate services and end of life (burial) loans. Look for non-traditional services that could really benefit your members.
9) Reach out to young adults and women via micro lending, small business services, HSAs and lifestyle lending products.
10) Consider starting a CUSO to offer insurance/travel/HR/IT/DP products and services.
11) Stop asking Gen Y why 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.
12) Focus more on diverse non-interest income streams (debit cards, GAP coverage, credit/debt protection, investments and brokerage services) to help improve your bottom line.
13) Get the right staff in the right seats on your credit union bus to serve members effectively. Empower them to serve as well as teach members how to use your technology to self serve themselves.
14) Reach out to boomer/senior members with retirement planning and long-term health care products/services.
If we are not only to survive in the future but thrive, we will have to develop a different strategic mind set about growth. Our leaders will have to strategically focus more on Innovation vs. Tradition and execute faster at a greater level than the competition. Credit unions will need to fine tune, hone and focus on our commitment to members to keep up in the fast paced changing financial services derby.
So tighten your saddles for the wild ride ahead and Happy New Year!
John A. Vardallas is CEO and founder of TheAmericanBoomeR Group, Madison, Wis. For info: firstname.lastname@example.org.