How Australia's CU CEOs View Themselves

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A marketing research firm here has compiled findings from the first of what is to be a quarterly survey of this country's credit union CEOs. The survey was conducted by Derham Marketing Research (The Credit Union Journal, Feb. 27).

Below are the some of the findings of the inaugural survey, including some viewpoints that CEOs at American CUs should find of interest. The analysis was compiled by Philip Derham, principal with the firm, and all of the text and verbage is drawn from Derham's work.

Executive Summary

Australian credit union chief executives see member-oriented service, delivered in regional areas by branches or delivered in capital cities by a wide range of account access methods - and fair fees, - as the credit union movement's differentiating features.

These features, they say, satisfy and motivate members to continue to use credit union services. To ensure their member-oriented service continues to satisfy members, a minority of chief executives formally measure members' views annually.

Slightly more than half the Australian credit union chief executive officers were satisfied with their credit union's past year's performance. Almost all note that home loans are an important business base and mortgage "churn" affected credit unions more or less equally-though less a concern for larger credit unions than others, at present.

Chief executives consider gender generally has little impact on capacity to do any credit union job-though a significant minority said men are less capable than women in face-to-face dealing with members.

Specific Findings

1. Service is the Credit Union difference!

Three-in-four Australian credit union chief executives see service as a key differentiator between credit unions and other financial institutions (73%). Noticeably, country-based credit union chief executives were more likely to say service is the difference (87%) than the others. Those with members in both state capital cities and the surrounding regional areas were less likely to see service as a key differentiator (63%).

Overall, three-quarters of Australian credit union chief executives see the service their credit union provides as better than that of other financial institutions (71%).

The perceived value of branches as delivery channels for service varied markedly by region. Country-based credit unions saw branches as core to that service delivery (80%), while city-based credit union CEOs scarcely agreed (41%). Those CEOs who serve both city and regional members are even less inclined to see branches as core to their service delivery (31%).

2. Home loans

Home loans are important value drivers for nine in 10 Australian credit unions (92%). Home loan churn affected 34% of Australian credit unions, CEOs reported, though it had less impact on the larger credit unions (25%). But the attitudes to the impact of home loans varied by state capital city or region. The survey found that one in two expected member satisfaction to be driven by home loan competitiveness (48%), but that was very much a capital city-based view (65%) and not a country credit union view (27%).

Among Australian regional credit unions, a wide range of services was seen as a more important motivator to member satisfaction (67%) than these were to Australian state capital city-based credit unions (59%).

3. Satisfaction as a business driver

A third of Australian credit unions formally undertake at least annual member satisfaction monitors and most others measure member satisfaction less frequently.

This less frequent measuring raises a question of service quality. If service is a key credit union distinction, how do Australian credit unions know they are delivering service at the standard members want, if it is not measured regularly? Does the standard members want remain constant or does it change, in relation to changing market behavior? A change to Internet banking can have a major impact on members' branch use, for example and so alter the exposure to staff, with alterations to expected service levels changing accordingly.

Most Australian credit union chief executives seek to satisfy their members by ensuring their staff are member-oriented (83%). Second tier member satisfaction approaches were to provide members with fair fees (73%) and noticeably not lower fees (48%), and a wide range of account access methods (71%).

Socially responsible banking was seen as a member satisfier by two-in-five Australian credit union chief executives; and the credit union philosophy by one-in-four (40% and 25%, respectively).

4. Gender has no advantage - hard labor excepted!

Nine in ten respondents were men (in line with the industry norms).

They were aware:

* The movement mostly employed women (90%).

* Felt that gender equality in jobs would make no difference to the movement's future (63%).

* Thought men were more suited to intense physical labor (92%), and women to child care (67%).

Noticeably, Australian Credit union chief executives stated there was little difference in either gender's capacity to undertake any credit union jobs. They stated that employee gender has no difference in jobs requiring careful attention to detail (81%), selling financial products (71%), managing staff (73%) or in managing the business (77%).

Chief executives identified (only) one male weakness. When required to have face-to-face involvement with members, men or women could be effective, 56% of CEOs reported. But a solid sub-group felt women were more effective than men (42%).

5. Performance

Half the Australian CU CEOs were satisfied with their credit union's performance last year (52%). Their comments indicated that even with solid performances achieved, they planned to perform more effectively next year, boding well for the movement generally as well as for their own credit unions specifically.

Finally, half the Australian credit union CEOs see their PCs as mates, not monsters, as 56% self-assess their competency with PCs at an 8, on a scale of one to 10, or better.

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