DES MOINES, Iowa-Credit unions have become much better managers of their own business and market footprints during the last four years, according to one person.

Shazia Manus, CEO of The Members Group, said credit unions have become much more careful and skilled about moving into new business areas, such loan participations and commercial lending. "Credit unions have learned to first understand the right skill sets they need to enter uncharted territory and to hire or train to get those skills. They also now better understand risk exposure and how to manage that effectively."

Perhaps the most important improvement coming out of the recession, suggested Manus, is that credit unions no longer open a new branch without first understanding their membership, target segment, and local area.

"You also see them making the kinds of tough decisions you have to make in this economy-closing branches that are not performing. You also see a lot more use of innovative branching models. You do not always need a full-service location."

Manus added that same type of thinking is, and still needs to be, applied to products. "If a product line is introduced and does not perform, it should be shut down. I think these types of changes indicate credit unions are becoming more nimble in this fast-changing world and are no longer relying a great deal on reacting."

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