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It's time to start discovering!
Credit union professionals from across the country gathered recently from the comfort of their own desks for CUNA Mutual Group’s annual Online Discovery Conference. From keynotes on strategic planning to breakout sessions on lending, the economy and more, a variety of analysts and experts offered information and tactics to help CUs make the most of whatever lies ahead.

All photos courtesy of CUNA Mutual Group.
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Beyond business as usual
In an opening keynote session titled “Beyond Business as Usual: Rethinking Strategy in a Changing Industry,” Karrikins Group DR founder and CEO Peter Sheahan and VP of Strategy and Research Julie Williamson discussed how CUs can better plan and execute their plans.

“The more perspectives you engage, the more likely you are to bring your strategy to life,” said Williamson.

But it won’t mean much if the right planning hasn’t gone into making sure that strategy is the right one for that particular organization.

“It doesn’t matter how well you execute the wrong strategy,” said Sheahan.

The duo also offered seven takeaways for creating a strategy, including:

*Build a strategy, not just a plan
*Allocate resources to the future
*Define your edge of disruption
*Commit to doing the hard work
*Have the courage to question assumptions
*Be willing to deselect
*Pay attention to the process
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Are you ready for the next recession?
Despite the shaky political landscape and all the upheaval and changes of the past year, one factor that has stayed relatively steady is a strong economy, including continued low unemployment and sustained membership and loan growth for credit unions.

So CUs had better be prepared in case things change, said Steve Rick, CUNA Mutual Group’s chief economist, in a session focused on the economy and how it will impact CUs’ 2018 strategic plans.

“Are you prepared for a recession?” he asked. “While growth is above trend, one is possible in 2019.”
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What millennials want
As one recent study has noted, millennials aren’t nearly as good with their finances as they want to be, and that creates a big opportunity for credit unions willing to step in and help them learn good financial behaviors. And that willingness to serve those consumers could also pay off when those young adults need loans.

Jim Bullard, risk management consultant for CUNA Mutual, offered a session on “Minimizing risks in a virtual world” when lending to millennials, focusing on the intersection of service and technology, both of which are crucial components if CUs hope to capture this demographic’s business and loyalty.

“You can balance virtual convenience with transaction security, but the challenge is authentication,” he said.
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Analytics are a must
Anne Legg, director of market/client strategies at CUNA Mutual’s AdvantEdge Analytics, led a breakout session on transforming business through data and analytics, and she reminded viewers that “the most powerful tools in the credit union space are the robust amount of data and trust” CUs have from their members.

And how can credit unions do that? Legg offered five steps for CUs to follow:

1) Embrace change

2) Think like a fintech

3) Define, create, give and measure value

4) Leverage your data

5) Create new engagement strategies
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In a session titled “Becoming digital: The path to frictionless financial services,” Sievewright & Associates founder and CEO Mark Sievewright noted that digital disruption isn’t just a one-time event credit unions an get through and be done with. Rather, he said, it’s an ongoing process that will create a continuous stream of innovation reshaping consumer behaviors, business models and the long-term structure of the financial services industry.

But with all that change, how will credit unions know if they’re “winning”? Sievewright offered a few suggestions:

*Offer relevant, competitively priced products and services
*Institute a service-led sales culture
*Make high-touch, high-tech delivery capabilities available to members
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Don't be the next Blockbuster
Brian Kass, managing director of CMFG Ventures, noted that credit unions have the opportunity to jump on board with the growing fintech sector and potentially hitch themselves to the next great idea – but the risks could well outweigh the rewards, and half the battle is ensuring that CUs pick the right fintech to invest in.

“It’s not just millennials that have changing expectations,” he told the crowd, “it’s all generations.”

Kass added, “There’s a long list of companies that have become irrelevant because they dismissed tech or failed to adapt because it was too late.” In other words, credit unions should take a lesson from Radio Shack and Blockbuster Video.