Top 10 Suggestions For Setting The Course

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I understand if you have chosen to quit opening the newspaper. Overall net membership growth is declining. Net interest margins are not covering operating expenses. CEO and board leadership is in transition. The economy is bordering on recession. Interest rates are fluctuating daily. For many, the housing market has gone south. Fuel and food prices are rising faster than our raises and pundits are forecasting a gloomy picture for this election year into 2009.

With all this negative talk in the media what is the credit union movement to do? I would offer these top 10 suggestions for setting a course to not just survive but thrive:

1) Work the back yard. Focus on deepening relationships (more wallet share) with your current members. Get close and really get to know your members.

2) Review your fee structures for market place adjustments. I am not suggesting we gouge our members, just that we alter fees based on the local marketplace. We still will be the best deal in town.

3) Have a partnership, Alliance and Merger Strategy.

4) Train staff to cross serve/sell and wow members at every touch point opportunity 7x24x365. All staff and volunteers should be advocates for your CU.

5) Reconnect with current and new members by offering a Member Care 800-number and a Certificate of Member Ownership. Give members real reasons for being a member, not just a customer. Membership should have its privileges.

6) Have a strategy to reach out to serve new Americans and the underserved. We are at the point now for action in really reaching out to consumers in our communities and bringing them into our credit union family.

7) Offer relationship pricing and heavily promote debit cards for interchange income so that the more members use the credit union the better the deal they get.

8) Offer Tax/Legal (Wills) and End of Life (Burial) Services. Think outside the box and look for services that your members could really benefit.

9) Reach out to Boomers and women via small business services and HSAs/lifestyle/payday lending products.

10) Consider starting a CUSO to offer insurance/travel/HR/DP/products & services.

The CU movement in the United States is now celebrating 100 years and is in a mature stage of development. If we are not only to survive in the future but thrive, we will have to develop a different strategic mind set about growth. Our credit unions will need to fine tune, hone and focus our energies that are clearly defined and with a commitment to achieve them.

John A. Vardallas is a professional speaker and CEO of TheAmericanBoomeR Group. For info: or jvardallas 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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