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Fighting cybersecurity threats such as account takeover fraud, successfully using data analytics and reinvigorating branches are likely just a few topics that credit unions will tackle during their strategic planning sessions. Credit Union Journal covered these issues and more as part of its July special report.

Read on for highlights from this coverage.
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Be prepared for mergers
With consolidation in the industry continuing, management teams should be discussing their plans for mergers during strategic planning, experts said. These discussions should include whether the credit union wants to be an acquirer or to be acquired. It’s important these conversations happen far in advance of an actual opportunity being presented. That way if a good merger does become available, the board and management can move quickly.

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Identifying talent that can take on bigger roles
Succession planning for the C-suite is often discussed at credit unions. But what about beyond the institution’s top jobs? As more CEOs retire, more credit unions are beginning to think about succession planning for their entire organizations. This strategy can help develop personnel and retain top talent.

“I think the focus has been to develop succession planning strategies throughout the organization by identifying people who can potentially be a good fit for a particular role and be developing staff in all areas of need, not just at an executive level,” said Steve Koenen, president and CEO of Altra Federal Credit Union in Onalaska, Wis.

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Rising cyber threats
Account takeover schemes are on the rise, and credit unions need to ensure they are taking the issue seriously enough. Although this form of fraud has been around for centuries, criminals have become more sophisticated in their attacks. That means credit unions need to do more to protect their members. Credit unions can fight back by investing in authentication and identity verification controls, among other measures.

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Total credit union branches reported to NCUA.
Don't give up on branches
Branches will be here for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean credit unions shouldn’t revamp these spaces. Consumers are completing more transactions digitally and visiting branches less frequently. Executives need to consider how their branches can become eye-catching marketing tools with digital elements that are appealing to members.

“The branch still has significant value, but the management of why people go in and how they interact with the intuition is different. We believe financial institutions have to create a journey and an experience that is meaningful for members [and] customers,” said Jeff Winter, senior vice president with design and build firm NewGround.

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Don't underestimate the importance of analytics
Any discussion of strategic plans for next year or 2021 need to include how data analytics will be used to compete. Since data has become integral to credit union operations, some institutions are creating positions, such as chief digital officers or data analytics managers. Additionally, executives need to set measurable goals to ensure they are using their data successfully.

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Much to tackle
The Credit Union Journal asked several executives what would be on their minds during their strategic planning sessions, and the answers varied greatly. Some credit unions are considering market expansion and implementing new technology. Others are considering how to improve the member experience.

For Southwest Louisiana Credit Union in Lake Charles, La., the driving question is, “If we [are] suddenly no longer open for business, why would the community miss us?” said CEO Ronaldo Hardy.

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