By Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, Associate, Mitchell Stankovic & Associates
A period of self-reflection is good for individuals, companies and industries. I retired from Travis Credit Union as CEO more than three years ago. In the last year I’ve had both knees replaced, forcing me to take time out of my consulting, but I’ve made good use of that gift of time. As I look back on my four-decade career in credit unions and forward for what’s to come for credit unions, I see great things, from the members we’ve saved from financial ruin to the enduring relationships I have within the credit union community.
My experiences have been wonderful overall, but as I reflect I also am pondering what I and others have done, could have done, and should have done to create an even more sustainable future for credit unions and the members we serve.
1. Credit unions preach cooperation but in practice we remain divided. We really don’t practice what we preach; we really don’t cooperate. I had the opportunity to serve on the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ committee overseeing the cooperative advertising campaign. We recognized that awareness was (and is!) a critical issue for credit unions. Collaboratively we could tackle that issue, but the issue seemed to be that smaller credit unions felt the larger credit unions would reap most of the benefits. To its credit, the league went out on a limb to require all members to fund the effort. When the Great Recession hit, the program unfortunately lost support and fell apart, but we were doing good work to benefit ALL credit unions. The whole is greater than its parts, and we need that collective strength when our bank competitors on the same block are larger than all credit unions combined.
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By Randy Karnes, CEO, CU*Answers
Every year I hear credit unions CEOs talk about how they need the newest products and services to remain competitive. The one thing I don’t hear is a dedication to changing the culture at the credit union to be effective. Adding new services is easy, but changing how we work and serve our members requires buy-in at the organization from the top on down. One particular area where credit unions have been slow to change their mentality is behaving more like the online retailers customers expect in their daily interactions.
The days of the ‘if I build it, they will come’ mentality, where credit unions could simply build a new branch and watch the people walk in, are dwindling. Taking that approach for online strategies is sure to result in failure—the virtual world faces overcrowding. If you’re not a retailer and you don’t know how to get members to visit your virtual branch, you’re in trouble.
Most credit union executives and boards still need to figure out what being an online retailer means for their credit union. Continuing down the path most are taking, they’re missing out on the opportunity to begin that culture shift now. It will take years of work; budgeting, planning, setting deadlines, and being accountable to it.
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Happy New Year!
Over the holidays, I spent time writing a list of gratitude for 2017. It is a time to renew my spirit and dedication to making a difference. It isn’t always easy, but our volunteer work with World Council has enriched our professional and personal lives. We are better people, more aware of the impact WOCCU has on entire countries, regions and villages globally. It is a privilege to engage in their mission and I want to thank Brian Branch for the opportunity.
In addition, I try to reach out to the people who have touched my life and recognize them. 2017 was an amazing year… We all joined together to be on the leading edge of a global issue regarding women – empowerment, financial inclusion, breaking the glass ceiling and encourage significant dialogue to better each other’s lives!
As the founding Chair, I have had a wonderful opportunity to be part of Global Women’s journey from the beginning as together we took one step with one member, one sister society, one empowerment grant, one scholarship, one major fundraiser, one (or a dozen) pink ties, and many voices who all share a mission to change lives through CUs. I’d like to thank all of you for believing and working countless hours with GWLN.
You may have seen the announcement from Brian that Calyn will be transitioning to focus solely on Global Women’s Leadership Network in 2018. This is a tribute to her outstanding efforts and a “win” for GWLN! I hope you join me in thanking Calyn for her outstanding leadership as 2017 rocked! GWLN was recognized worldwide with the Distinguished Service Award and here are some real numbers to share with your teams, your Sister Society members and with your Boards.
Let’s celebrate this moment together. Share our genuine love for the people that help people through GWLN. And then get back to work. It is a critical time in history and World Council / GWLN needs our support to continue changing lives through credit unions! Thank you! And warmest regards,
Chair of GWLN
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By Sue Mitchell, CEO, Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates
Credit unions are struggling to find their voice and have blended their purpose—their social mission—into a bland financial services message. The credit union community must cut through the noise of the politicians and unforeseen regulatory restrictions to establish mutually beneficial positions and practices. The Underground Collision is the forum for that revolutionary discussion, change from within rather than be forced to change. With the support of our key business partners, the Underground Collision community is not just talking about the issues today, but acting on them and looking ahead to position the credit union movement for the future.
Key Underground Results
Sitting through the business-as-usual seminars and roundtables is a true burden for leaders with vision. Same voices. Same topics. Same political position. Same ‘wins’ that are minimal in impact for credit unions and consumers. More than 20,000 payday lenders are ripping the soul of financial empowerment from those whom cooperatives were meant to serve. Even credit union employees are using alternative lending sources to make it through to their next paycheck, and that’s just not right!
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By Sarah Snell Cooke, Principal, Cooke Consulting Solutions
Your credit union can be as prepared as you think you possibly can be to recover from catastrophe, but if your employees are also affected by the disaster, you could have bigger troubles. Who’s going to implement the plans?
That was the situation Redwood Credit Union faced, President/CEO Brett Martinez said, when record-setting wildfires struck the North Bay area. “We’ve been affected in every way imaginable, and probably some you can’t imagine,” he said.
Fortunately—or unfortunately—Redwood CU has a lot of experience in this scenario. Martinez advised others to ensure their disaster recovery plans cover four key elements: the credit union, its employees, the members and the larger community. “I didn’t want to be good at this, but we’re good at this,” he quipped. “I always knew we had a good time. That they arose to, what people did, was amazing.”
The credit union has an existing 501(c)(3) for ongoing efforts, like financial education, but it’s bulked up for major disasters, like the fires that caused $9 billion dollars in insurance damages, according to The Press Democrat, and killed dozens of people in October. More than 6,000 homes were destroyed and 150 businesses in and around Sonoma County.
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