From Utopia To Legalese, And Points In Between

Register now

Talk about setting the bar a bit high...

I had the pleasure of speaking a while back to the Illinois league's annual meeting at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg, Ill. It's a new hotel, sleek and modern and surprisingly, for a hotel just off a freeway in Chicagoland, it has a bit of a South Beach vibe.

I'd like to be the first to tell you the meeting facilities are first rate, but the Renaissance-perhaps inspired by its own name-has beaten me to it. Its meeting rooms carry names such as "Epiphany," "Serenity" and "Nirvana."

For my part, I was assigned to speak in a room named "Utopia." You really haven't seen the look of disappointment on people's faces until you see them joyfully bounding through the doors just beneath the word "Utopia," and then-they see you. Utopia, you can see people thinking, is apparently overrated. I'd like to thank the Renaissance on behalf of conference speakers everywhere for a deep dish pizza of humility.


In case you didn't see it, there were a couple of pretty interesting observations in a recent study released by the Filene Research Institute on reaching Gen Y. The first was that "consumers trust other consumers' opinions more than any form of advertising," a characteristic true of all consumers, not just youth.

One thing I've been amazed by is how successful some CUs have been in simply asking members for testimonials-testimonials members will often create themselves using video cameras on personal computers.

The second observation had to do with social media, and while the first part won't be a big surprise, the second offers some good, solid advice. "Measuring impact and resulting ROI is much more important and harder to do than measuring output," the Filene report stated. "However, what helps boost response rates are emotionally rewarding concepts. Work within what the credit union target already believes-social responsibility and collaboration-instead of trying to bring Gen Yers to the credit union message."

Speaking of Gen Y, was listening to a presentation by a group of young tech professionals who seemed to have embraced a new word du jour: "ideate." In this case, they were using it as a verb in place of apparently now-old-school terms such as "brainstorm" or "conceptualize," or, what I assume has become just plain quaint, "think."


Perhaps someone should have seen this one coming: among those issued recent prohibition orders by NCUA was a former employee of Shuford Credit Union in Granite Falls, N.C.: Joyce Ann Outlaw.


Here are some observations from Mark Sievewright, president of Fiserv's CU division, made during the Kansas CU Association's annual meeting earlier this year.

First (for many of you), want to feel old? Sievewright noted that by the year 2020 (likely the International Year of Optometry), nearly half of U.S. adults will have been born after 1980. By the year 2050, less than half the U.S. population will be white.

Sievewright noted that in recent remarks to a group of high school kids, he asked how many would bank with Apple if it had a financial institution, and nearly every hand went up. Apple hasn't indicated any plans to charter a bank, but you should be prepared for its influence when-not if-it gets into the payments space.

"We are willing to do everything online, and every demographic is doing it to some degree," said Sievewright. "Twenty-six percent of those over age 65 use Facebook. Women 55-plus are the fastest growing segment of Facebook, because they want to talk to their grandchildren."

Many CUs have made forays into social media such as Facebook, but their efforts have mostly consisted of posting community event photos or making product announcements, all in the elusive search for "likes."

The most effective users of Facebook aren't credit unions, however, according to Sievewright. Surprisingly, even though it seems they'd be more likely the subject of "Don't Likes," it's big banks that are setting the standard. Sievewright pointed to Chase, which on Facebook "does not act like a bank."

For instance, you can use the site to vote on "whom to give money to." Something must be working, some 2 million people have "liked" Chase, Sievewright said.

Finally, Seivewright offered up an observation that is more about the broad position of credit unions, rather than specific technologies.

"We should be worrying less about credit unions becoming insolvent and more about becoming irrelevant," he told the Kansas meeting.

At least one credit union-Vacationland FCU in Ohio-has drawn some similar conclusions, and has actively rebranded itself. You can read more about that at


How do you know when you are at a meeting of CFOs? When a presentation opens with a slide full of disclosures and legalities making it clear that the speaker can't really be held liable for anything he has to say, which is just what happened during a breakout session on risk in balance sheets during the CUNA CFO Council's recent annual meeting in Florida. And just like those disclosure boxes you encounter online and check off to indicate you "agree," no one read it.

Frank J. Diekmann can be contacted at

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.