CU Data

Four Hands, 88 Keys

‘Treat your customers like lifetime partners.’

December 04, 2012
KEYWORDS loans , mortgage , partner , workers
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A friend and I will perform a piano duet next week at a holiday recital.

It has been my privilege at various times to partner with others at the piano. I have played both primo and secondo. Whether one plays treble or bass is of no consequence, however, as both parts are equally important. Together the partners make beautiful music as they anticipate one another’s actions, cooperate in close proximity at the keyboard, listen to one another’s contributions, and defer or predominate as the piece requires.

If the duet is correctly executed, the audience appreciates and enjoys the give and take of performers. The performers appreciate the value each brings to the mutual artistic expression. The task, by definition, cannot be completed in solo fashion. Cooperation is vital. Practice makes perfect. The partnership requires input, diligence, trust, and respect on both sides for success.

Your credit union has many partnerships, too, although some may not come readily to mind as such. You partner with individual members, your staff, the community, select employee groups, vendor providers, small businesses, and likely many others.

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning,” remarked Bill Gates.

As you peruse this week’s research, honestly consider the balance of your partnerships, and realize that “it takes two.”

Treat your customers like lifetime partners. –Michael Leboeuf

Home Equity Loans Make Comeback Fueling U.S. Spending,” says Bloomberg. Loans associated with real estate are rebounding in the wake of record low mortgage rates and brighter days on the job front.

“After six years of declines, lending for [home equity lines of credit] will rise 30% to $79.6 billion in 2012, the highest level since the start of the financial crisis in 2008…Originations next year will jump another 31% to $104 billion.”

Consumers are most inclined to use these credit lines for home renovation and repair. Such spending for 2012 is projected to increase to $120.7 billion, up from $114 billion in 2011.

More loan-related news can be found in the “Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit” by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Here announced, “Non-real estate household debt jumped 2.3 percent to $2.7 trillion. The increase was due to a boost in student loans ($42 billion), auto loans ($18 billion) and credit card balances ($2 billion).”

Other items of note:

“Economic activity expanded at a measured pace in recent weeks,” according to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book. The recent hurricane was cause for weaker conditions in the East although “consumer spending grew at a moderate pace in most Districts.”

Further, “Credit standards and credit quality were somewhat improved, on net, since the last report.” See this resource for district-specific economic activity reports.

Another credit crescendo? “TransUnion: Credit-Card Delinquency Up in Q3.”  Here it is noted that U.S. credit risk is edging up and “the national credit card delinquency rate, or the ratio of borrowers 90 or more days past due, increased slightly to 0.75% in the third quarter from 0.71% a year ago.”

TransUnion also reports that average credit card debt per borrower is up 4.91% from last year, to $4,996.

How do you interact with your members regarding their needs for credit? Will your efforts lead to lifetime partnerships?

A partner in the business will not put an obstacle to it. –Ethiopian Proverb

How are your employee partnerships faring?

Think about “Using Return-to-Work Programs to Improve Profits and Morale” as reported at

Absent employees bring indirect and direct costs in the way of wages and benefits paid, lost productivity, and disruption of customer relations. But return to work programs can help get employees back on the job with workplace modifications such as work area adjustments, assist-at-work plans that allow part time employment during an employee’s recovery, a change in employee duties, or the employer’s willingness to allow flexible hours or locations.

Do you know “How to Help Your Employees Be Fearless?”  Recent survey results reported in this Inc. article reveal employees have many fears, including:

Solutions to calming these fears include lesser reliance on policies on the part of the employer and greater attention to value principles like respect, trust, and gratitude.

Also on the topic of employee partnerships, read that “U.S. Workers Least Happy with Their Work Stress and Pay” as reported by Gallup. “Overall, just under half of American workers, 47%, are completely satisfied with their job, while 42% are somewhat satisfied, and a combined 11% are either completely or somewhat dissatisfied.”

Continuing challenges in the American job market lead most workers to be grateful to hold a job regardless of the unhappy aspects of it. Still, “for the good of individuals and the health of the economy, it is important that workers feel encouraged and connected at work.”

Employers, too, however, have an expectation for employee behavior and when things don’t work out they might want to know how to “Bounce Back from a Bad Hire: 10 Tips.” 

Among the suggestions, disillusioned employers will learn they should “incent them to go,” take time to make hiring decisions, use effective interview techniques to determine a candidate’s style, and incorporate trial periods through “temp-to-perm” situations.

Differentiation is an important part of partnerships. Sometimes the musician playing treble rests as the bass takes the melody.

But one partner cannot exist without the other, either at the piano or during the course of everyday business. We each bring proficiency, but good partnering, it seems, may also require a degree of humility. It’s not always easy, but important to keep in mind.

In the words of Michael Eisner, “It is rare to find a business partner who is selfless. If you are lucky it happens once in a lifetime.”

Do you make beautiful music?






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.

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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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