Advice from the Brain Trust: Retired CU Leaders Answer Readers' Questions

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Editor's Note: CURE (Credit Union Retired Executives) is sharing advice with Credit Union Journal readers based on questions it receives and responses from the numerous retired CU execs it has recruited. For more info:

Q: A CEO asked the "million-dollar" question: What top future trends and changes do credit unions need to be aware of to ensure that we can continue to stay competitive and offer our members the best in financial services?

A: This question reminds me of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky's response to an interviewer asking him to explain why he's so successful on the ice. "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been," Gretzky said. And that's exactly what credit unions have to do: look beyond the obvious changes in the economy and our financial system, and focus on where our members will be. Here are a few changes on the horizon for which we should be preparing now.

The first is the demise of our traditional US Postal Service (USPS). That day is fast approaching, as e-mail, FedEx, and UPS-among others-outperform it. Ultimately, this loss of market share will render the USPS obsolete (it's been operating in the red for years, anyway). What keeps the USPS afloat are junk mail, bills, and payments.

Credit unions must be ready for the day when the USPS no longer exists by providing online bill payer and other electronic means to their members.

The second is the disappearance of paper checks. With fewer checks written and increased use of debit cards, there won't be a need for costly paper checks to continue. Credit unions must be ready for that day by implementing bill payer, debit cards, and mobile banking today. Don't wait until it's required and you have to struggle to catch up.

Third, say goodbye to the land-line telephone. Because a growing number of people use cell phones not land lines. Credit unions must be ready to move to land-line alternatives, such as Internet-based phone systems, and they must be able to provide both online and mobile banking services to their members.

Fourth is the ongoing loss of privacy. Cameras are already virtually everywhere-both for security and convenience. Our habits as consumers have always been recorded and analyzed to create profiles; it's just happening more quickly and comprehensively, as more of what we do is recorded electronically. Companies then customize their marketing efforts to fulfill the consumers' specific preferences-something credit unions can also do, so that we're marketing customized financial products and services to our members.

The bottom line: Be prepared. Keep your vision wide. Look beyond the financial world to identify what your members will need, so that credit unions can continue to provide a prosperous future for all.

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