CU Mission Should Engender Passion and Caring

Embrace six perspectives to build the future of the CU movement.

October 17, 2012
KEYWORDS brand , credit , marketing , unions
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The following perspectives could have value and be a positive influence on the future of the credit union movement:

1. Branding. I have obviously not been in the planning sessions, listened to the marketing consultants, or heard the management team and the board debate as various credit unions decided to change their names.

But, as an outside observer, it seems to me that about half of those name changes were well-thought-out and effective. The other half left me scratching my head and wondering, “What were they thinking.”

I understand that brands and names evolve. Consumer acceptance shifts. Sponsors disappear or become less relevant. And credit unions sometimes change their target market, which leaves their historical brand outdated.

But on the other side of the equation, I am often reminded of a marketing axiom I learned many years ago: “Your brand is your lifeboat. Never abandon your lifeboat.”

An entity’s brand identification is a combination of marketing messages and consumers’ experiences with that entity’s products or services. Brand identification is built over years or even decades.

A brand becomes a consumer “comfort zone.” If the messages and experiences have been predominantly positive, brand can exert a powerful influence on a consumer’s decision to deal with a specific vendor or institution in the future.

Just as a lifeboat is needed and much-appreciated in a storm at sea, so too is a known and well-positioned brand.

Some of the best brand changes credit unions have made have been those that preserve a historical name, look, or feel while stretching that brand to reach new or more broadly defined markets.

But in doing so, management and boards of directors might want to keep the lifeboat analogy in the back of their minds.

2. Regulators. Most of us are trying to find a balance among multiple and often conflicting issues, objectives, principles, or priorities. That’s a natural consequence of limited resources—time, money, focus, and energy.

But, it is in finding that balance that we serve multiple good purposes, perhaps few to an ultimate best outcome. But accomplishing “more” too may be the really important result.

Regulators typically do not have that balance (other than the pressures of the regulated, for less!). A quote from an American Banker article makes the point: “Anyone in the prevention business—from doctors to airline security screeners to bank examiners—will tell you they face an exponentially bigger downside from being too lax than being too stringent. Abundance of caution will always win the day here.”

The Federal Reserve, however, does have a dual mandate: to manage the money supply (control inflation) and to have policies that will stimulate “full” employment.

There is much debate about the appropriateness of those competing objectives, but it would be fair to say that when they can both be achieved at the same time, the economy and society are well-served.

As far as I have been able to determine, our credit union federal regulator’s objectives or mission is to “prevent” and “avoid” risk based on wording such as “enforce legislation and regulation,” “assure safety and soundness,” and “protect the Share Insurance Fund.”

What I would suggest is that some of the words often in NCUA Board members’ speeches also get adopted as policy or mission (or even in legislation) for the agency, giving credit union regulator guidance “to stimulate credit union activities (loans and other financial services) for consumers and businesses to increase incomes, employment, ownership, and economic growth of, and in, America’s communities.”

Note: I have actually used for this text a variation of an NCUA description of its Community Development Revolving Loan Fund.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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