ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-Credit unions should work to take advantage of being "in the driver's seat" as they head into 2013 strategic planning season, according to Fredda McDonald.

McDonald, EVP for the credit union experience at PSCU, said record growth "promises to continue" as consumers are still searching for more rewarding financial relationships.

"The time is now to invest, grow and prosper with solutions that will attract, engage and retain members," she advised.

McDonald offered four key points for CUs to integrate into their strategic planning for 2013:

1. Create a flexible infrastructure. "Credit unions need to keep up with the speed of innovation in the payments industry," she said. "In a competitive environment with more players and business models, disintermediation becomes a reality only if credit unions fail to more tightly engage with members."

According to McDonald, the 2015 mandate for plastic cards to migrate to EMV technology creates an "inflection point" for credit unions to separate from banks by giving members the tools and technology they need.

2. Seek best-in-class partnerships. A CU's speed to market increases dramatically by aligning with partners that have the proven products, a roadmap for the future and experience to help the credit union maintain relevance and effectively engage with members, said McDonald. She counseled CUs to mark 2013 as a critical year of milestone events in the evolution of mobile payments. "Watch out for mobile phones-they are everywhere," she said.

3. Think beyond payment. Upsell and/or cross-sell opportunities for a CU's existing services are "abundant," McDonald said. She urged CUs to consider integrating a "sales mindset" into their physical and virtual branch cultures.

4. Own your member. CUs need to keep the quality and security of the end-user experience top-of-mind, she said, because, "A thoroughly satisfying member interaction is a credit union's most powerful marketing tool."

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