Some Quick Thoughts, As You May Have Just 10 Years To Live

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Heard the same troubling story, but different anecdotes, from two different people last week. First, Dick Ensweiler, president of the Texas league and chair of the new CUNA Member Growth Task Force, noted that in areas where there are multiple CU community charters, credit unions are spending time and money differentiating themselves from each other, rather than from banks. This only makes the creation of a CU brand, among other things, all the more difficult, he observed. A day later, I spoke with a vendor to credit unions in Southern California who told me that the company has long offered regional user's meetings, but it has begun hearing from CUs that want to go to other region's meetings in order to not have to share anything with credit unions in their area.

* Increasingly, measuring "member satisfaction" is becoming Old School. While still important, how a credit union integrates what it learns in getting member satisfaction feedback into its operations, product offerings and member interaction is where the emerging focus is, according to several analysts. Case in point, Allegiance, a South Jordan, Utah-based company. "In the old days the talk was of customer satisfaction, then of customer loyalty," said Chris Cottle, VP-corporate marketing. "We believe engagement is a better term. It's more proactive. Ultimately, if someone is really engaged, they will go out of their way to have association with your company, such as people do with Apple Computer or Southwest Airlines. What we are able to do is enable a credit union to measure, manage and act upon the information." For those of you who never like to stay on top of CU industry abbreviations, Cottle had this addition for your list: EFM (enterprise feedback management).

* Here's an interesting trend. In years past when groups of credit unionists were asked how many were former bankers, a couple of tentative hands would go up. There would be jokes about being "reformed" and the CU audience would applaud the converts like born-again Christians at a revival baptism. During America's Credit Union Conference in Las Vegas (not a center of born-again Christians), Michael Hales of the Rochedale Group, himself a former banker, asked how many were also of the reformed sort. About 10% of those in the room raised their hands. Hales said it was his observation that the biggest difference between credit union folks and bankers is that bankers don't like to hug one another, "unless it's to reach around and grab the other guy's wallet."

* Dave Maus, chairman of CO-OP Financial Services, shared this story about dinner with CO-OP CEO Stan Hollen at the Broadmoor Resort recently in Colorado Springs. As anyone who's been to the Broadmoor knows, employees (including housekeeping staff) are all trained to know every guest by name and to refer to them accordingly. At dinner, with reservations made in the name of The CO-OP, Hollen was addressed by a waiter as "Mr. Coop." That's "Co-op," responded Hollen.

* And while we're on the topic of the CO-OP, Maus, who is also president of Public Service Credit Union in Denver, said there has been "a lot of rhetoric and concern about the ideals of credit unions" and that those "principles must remain strong." To that end Ontario, Calif.-based CO-OP has amended its bylaws so that any credit union that converts to a mutual savings bank loses its patronage dividend and its voting rights. If that mutual savings bank than converts to a commercial bank, it must exit CO-OP Financial Services.

* Content in your credit union career? Author Daniel Pink, the best selling author of "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future," shared this challenge with attendees at CUNA's America's Credit Union Conference (that rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) More accurately, he shared a challenge from another best-seller, Jim Collins' "Good to Great." In this case, it's the "20-10 Test." If you were given $20 million or told you had 10 years to live, what would you do? Pink said that it was his guess that credit union leaders, unlike many industries, would choose to stay in credit unions. He joked that if anyone in CUs had $20 million it would likely prompt questions from members. But then he turned serious noting that any number of the people in his audience would not be around in 10 years. Fortunately, as we all know, that sort of news only happens to the other guy.

* For those of you who spend a lot of time thinking about or overseeing employee training, by the way, Pink pointed to an observation by John Nordstrom, founder of the department store of the same name that is famous for the service its employees provide. When Nordstrom was asked who trained his employees, he responded, "Their parents."

* Finally, if you haven't given some thought to entering the CU Journal's Best Practices Awards, please do so. It is deliberately designed to be easy to enter-see details on page 3.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann

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