Community Service

Tough Times Are Opportunistic Times

An overwhelming tide of satisfied members can help CUs seize opportunities

April 01, 2013
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If you talk to seasoned credit union leaders about their roles today, you may very well hear that life in credit union land isn’t as enjoyable as it once was.

Why? One core reason is the burdensome regulatory environment. Another reason you may hear is that credit unions aren’t as collaborative as they once were.
Some say the low-rate environment and the still lackluster economy pose challenges of historic proportions. There’s certainly a lot to worry about if you’re a credit union leader today.
But there also has never been more opportunity. Never before has the for-profit banking sector scored so low in satisfaction and trust.
What once seemed like an insurmountable credit union weakness— fewer physical locations than banks—has been virtually erased by the ever-growing power of national shared branching, ATM networks, and the ability to serve members remotely in a mobile world.
Members can deposit checks using smartphone cameras or pay bills from anywhere that has a cell phone signal. Yes, the environment is challenging, but it’s darn exciting too!
Credit unions also are well positioned by virtue of their very structure. As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions win the war for consumers who want to do business with local, values-based organizations. From going green to going lean, people want to do business with organizations that care. Credit unions have the values box checked.
It’s certainly hard to understand why credit unions haven’t been empowered by Congress and the regulators to do even more to help the economy. But credit unions can overcome that challenge as well. They can win by creating an overwhelming tide of satisfied member- owners.
Members are the best weapon against recessions, burdensome regulations, and a stalled Congress. When members are on our side, those other barriers will splinter.
This is why CUNA launched its new vision: “Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner."
This vision isn’t about fluff. It isn’t just to create a new tagline. It’s for credit unions, the CUNA/league system, system partners, and anyone else connected to credit unions, to unite together and start to speak collectively and work collectively. We do have an “ask” of credit unions.
While we in the CUNA/ league system are working harder to get better on Capitol Hill and with the regulators, we are asking credit unions to support our efforts to “Remove Barriers, Create Awareness, and Foster Service Excellence” so the vision can be achieved. To do that, we’ve unveiled a menu of items for credit unions to tackle that will help the entire system move forward. Find them at
If Congress knew how much our 96 million members value their credit unions, it would be virtually impossible to stop us from achieving proactive legislation on Capitol Hill. Awareness can play a bigger role in our advocacy efforts than many realize, and that’s why it’s such a core part of achieving the vision.
Awareness also influences our regulatory environment. While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has certainly worked with CUNA to ease some burdensome regulations, it has completely missed the boat on its exemption authority.
Why isn’t the CFPB exempting credit unions from the bulk of its regulations when it’s well aware that many of its rules and regulations are solutions to problems that don’t exist in the credit union system? We need a tide of member support to start turning these challenges into opportunities.
Credit unions are sometimes reluctant to get their members involved in political or regulatory advocacy. That’s understandable. But we’re in such a dynamic time on the legislative and regulatory fronts that we must be willing to rally all of our resources—including members—if we’re serious about winning.
The CUNA/league system is here to help and to shepherd credit unions into this new territory of advocacy.
PAUL GENTILE is CUNA’s executive vice president of strategic communications and engagement. Contact him at 202-508-6793.

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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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