Reaction by the credit union movement to CUNA’s vision for the system (“Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner”) has been widely positive.
Now, it’s time for action.
I launched the vision project before 4,200 participants at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in late February. I explained why there is such a tremendous opportunity right now for credit unions to take advantage of the “cultural shift ” in society. People want access to values-based products and services. They want to see—and be seen—in a more responsible light.
“Values-based” service is part of our DNA—and this shift thus fits right into our wheelhouse.
Credit unions still have a unique advantage over other financial institutions with a values-based model that perfectly aligns with the cultural shift that’s happening.
To achieve the vision, I recommended credit unions “unite for good” toward achieving a three-part “shared agenda”:
1. Remove barriers. Too many things stand in our way to effectively serve members—lack of additional capital sources, cumbersome field of membership requirements, restrictions on lending. By actively participating in grassroots activities and the political process, we can knock down those barriers.
2. Create awareness. It’s time for credit unions to stop being “the best-kept secret” in financial services.
Instead, we should be sharing our story broadly to increase awareness of credit union value and to attract, retain, and develop younger and diverse leaders, employees, and members.
3. Foster service excellence. To know a credit union is to like a credit union—but to use a credit union is to love a credit union.
The more we can cultivate greater use of credit unions—through innovation, legislation, regulation, and more—the more we can count on adding new members and returning more value to consumers.
As noted earlier, initial reaction has been widely positive as well as supportive. But two key questions have come up: Is this a national branding campaign? Where’s the call to action?
First, we’re not suggesting a paid national branding or ad campaign. But we are suggesting social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and earned media (the press) campaigns— uniting around a shared message, and focusing on the value credit unions deliver.
Many credit unions already are doing this; let’s do more. We can use tools, programs, and channels that already exist, such as through the leagues, to share the story in our communities.
Second, we now have a call to action on our website associated with this vision project at uniteforgood.org.
We’ve posted “to-do” lists for each of the items in the “shared agenda” I noted earlier (remove barriers, create awareness, foster service excellence).
The lists aren’t exhaustive, and each item likely won’t be used by every credit union. But, collectively, they do provide a solid blueprint for credit unions to follow in participating in the success of the vision.
Further, we fully expect the lists to change over time, in response to these times of accelerated change.
Finally, our 10-year goals for this project are to have 50 million members call their credit union their “primary financial institution,” and reach total, annual member benefits of $20 billion. Some already called these goals “ambitious.”
They are—as they should be. Because when we deliver, Americans will have chosen credit unions as their best financial partner.
BILL CHENEY is CUNA’s president/CEO.