6 ways – in 6 minutes each – to change the credit union movement

Published
  • August 07 2018, 4:50pm EDT

CU leaders pick six

The first full day of the CU Leadership Convention, a conference formerly known as the CU Directors Convention that takes place the first week of August every year in Las Vegas, had a brand new feature known as 6 x 6. It was billed as the Top 6 ideas that can transform a credit union in six minutes or less. As readers may have guessed, speakers had just six minutes to present. Topics ranged from taking care of your staff to telling stories to using mobile to attract millennials. Read on for more stories from 6 x 6.

Fatherly wisdom

Patrick Adams is the longtime CEO of $285 million St. Louis Community Credit Union and a frequent speaker on the credit union conference circuit. Adams began his 6 x 6 by sharing stories about his dad, including some of the best business advice he ever received from any source.

“My dad told me every business is about customer acquisition – or in our case member acquisition, retention and profitability. He also said it is important to invest in people. Get great people and treat them right. We should take care of our staff first. They will take care of the members, which is the retention part, and through that we will be profitable. Move taking care of people to the top of the importance list.”

Adams also advised credit unions to not believe their press releases while shunning the negative. “Listen,” he advised. “Bad news is how you solve problems.”

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Why a good story is crucial for credit unions

Stories are of vital importance to credit unions.

That was the message from Nicolette Lemmon, president of LemmonTree Marketing Group. She urged CUs to “Line your website with stories.”

“A graphic and a tagline are not enough,” she said. “Members need to know they are important. Stories are the oldest form of communication. Whether or not you believe in religion, The Bible is all about stories.”

There is science behind stories, Lemmon continued. She said studies have found when human beings hear a good story their brains light up. “When you hear a good story you remember it, and you share it. Engage your members, make them feel how great your credit union is. When someone asks, ‘What is so special about being a member here?’ Make sure all of your front line staff and everyone in your phone center can answer that question. Stories bring the benefit of membership alive. Let people know why they should be a member of your credit union for a lifetime.”

Members feeling stressed? They're not alone.

Money is stressful, says Robert James Lay, founder and CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, digital marketing advisors for financial institutions. He noted 70 percent of Americans report feeling financial stress.

“They are looking for someone to guide them beyond stress to a bigger, brighter future,” he said. “The way people shop for loans is vastly different from 5, 10, 20 years ago. At the Digital Growth Institute we are seeing Digital Darwinism – extinction events across every single vertical by companies that did not adapt.”

The names of the deceased are familiar: Blockbuster, Kodak, Toys R Us. According to Lay, they all practiced “digital denial,” meaning the leaders of these companies believed their brand would continue to thrive despite changes. He said CU leaders need to be mindful of three fears that will kill them: fear of the unknown, which can be overcome by understanding the opportunities in digital, fear of change (“develop a digital strategy” he offered), and fear of failure.

“Digital growth is achieved by developing a mindset of understanding and embracing change,” he declared. “Changing alone is a struggle. You have to hold each other accountable, and hold your teams accountable. Have authenticity. Know you are changing for good, especially if you put people at the front of all that you do. You do all this, I guarantee you you will grow.”

CU in the elevator

Tim Harrington had a critical question for the credit union directors and executives in the audience: What is your 30-second elevator story?

“Do you know why someone should be part of your credit union? If you don’t know why someone should join your credit union, then the market won’t, either,” said Harrington, president of the TEAM Resources financial institutions consultancy. “The reason is not your loans, it is not your deposit accounts, it is not your mobile app or your general products. The differentiator is not what you do, it is why you do it.”

Harrington pointed to three of what he termed “purpose-based” companies that are successful in today’s market: Starbucks, USAA and REI. “All three live by their purpose,” he said. “Credit unions that have a meaningful, compelling purpose will attract passionate employees. Repeat your purpose constantly, share it internally, make every decisions revolve around it, and then find success stories and heroes. When your credit union is on purpose, you no longer are selling car loans and checking accounts.”

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An 'efficiency expert' offers advice

Deedee Myers knows a thing or two (or six!) about transforming. Myers is founder and CEO of DDJ Myers, Ltd., and co-founder of the Advancing Leadership Institute. She began her 6 x 6 talk by relating her thoughts when conference director Dennis Sullivan told her she only had 6 minutes on stage.

“I thought, I had six kids in 18 months, I’m an efficiency expert,” she said. In response to the audible gasp that swept through the audience, Myers shared the fact some years ago she had twins, then quadruplets. “That is transforming,” she said in a remarkable understatement. “Transformation happens to us. Sometimes it blindsides us, sometimes we can make it happen. The board-CEO relationship is transforming. People are asking ‘what if’ questions at their board meetings. People are being reflective. Boards are thinking about the perspectives different directors offer. The more perspectives you have in the room, the more you can transform your credit union.”

How being a bank customer could help grow your credit union

To find out exactly how difficult the challenge is when it comes to using mobile channels to attract millennials, Dave DeFazio, partner with StrategyCorps, said credit union leaders need to see what the other guys can do. He challenged them to open a checking account, savings account and credit card at the big five banks.

“The big five banks are killing us,” DeFazio reported, noting studies show 82 percent of millennial switchers are choosing big banks – usually due to mobile accessibility. “Figure out why they so appealing, and steal their good ideas. We don’t need to do everything the big banks do with mobile, but it needs to be close.”

DeFazio also suggested CUs start a millennial advisory board to gain insight. “This is easier than it sounds. Just grab your smart young employees and your smart young members and talk to them. Ask them what they like about your credit union, and what they don’t like about your credit union.”

“Download a new app” was DeFazio’s final tip on understanding the capabilities of the mobile channel. Smart phones are “rewiring our brains,” he said, and fintechs are changing the way millennials use their money. “Look at Acorns, Venmo and Credit Karma. Start a mobile experience team at your credit union. Keep asking one question over and over: ‘How do new mobile tools change member expectations of us?’”