MADISON, Wis.-Want to really get strategic? Then don't just think 2013-think 2014, 2015 and beyond.

"Normally when we're talking strategic planning I would say three to 10 years out instead of just one," said Dave Colby, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group. "If you were doing strategic planning in 2007, would you have planned for five years of recession and recession-like conditions?"

For CUs looking further ahead than just 2013, Colby noted that the key thing to keep in mind is membership and demographics.

"Look at your members-who are they now? Most credit unions should have a pretty good handle on that. Then...do nothing. What does that membership look like five to 10 years out if you do absolutely nothing? Will we have the right products and services and delivery channels? Is there a gap there," asked Colby. "And is this the demographics of the membership that we can achieve sustainable growth with as far as assets and capital? And then look at those gaps of if you did nothing versus what you want your membership to look like as far as growing assets and capital, and those gaps become your strategic plan. How do you close those gaps? That's your strategic plan."

Driving The Recovery

Regardless of whether they're planning one, three or five years ahead, Colby stressed that CUs need to put themselves in a position to make their own economic recovery in 2013 rather than waiting for conditions to improve on their own. He stressed being aggressive in efforts to boost lending, setting goals about how much to save member households, such as the move taken by Yolo FCU ("Yolo's 'Challenge' Drives 48% Increase In Lending," Credit Union Journal, July 30), and capitalizing on the CU's position as a local institution.

"Take a bit more member risk based on your local economic knowledge and what's happening as far as employment and collateral, and you can leverage that local knowledge, whereas a large national bank probably doesn't have that presence and feel."

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