“Every day more of our life is used up and less and less of it is left.”
Those are the words of Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius. So why then, do we act so lackadaisical? What has happened to the credit union community over the last decade or two that has caused the collective euthanasia of so many credit unions?
Quoting Heraclitus, “Our words and actions should not be like those of sleepers.” I believe that’s what so many of us have started to do. We’ve begun to sleepwalk not only through our life but through our careers. We must engage in succession and strategic planning for credit unions.
As I pore through data each quarter, especially that of merged credit unions, I spy so many missed opportunities. Last year, Chip Filson reviewed some mergers and posted this message that was included in a Notice of Special Meeting to members of one credit union:
The directors of the participating credit unions have concluded that the proposed merger is desirable for the following reasons: South Division Credit Union has not grown in size or membership participation for several years and has been faced with increasing operational, regulatory and compliance expenses; lack of managerial expertise, aging Board of Directors and no effective succession plans. We believe a merger would offset these trends by offering South Division Credit Union’s members access to an array of new services, more modern account management systems, improved remote electronic access for lending programs, better savings and loan rates, and additional facilities.
I do not believe that opportunities to lend money have gone away, rather credit unions have not innovated loan products nor have they innovated the application and underwriting process to remain relevant.
I do not believe the need for a trusted place to park your money between paydays has changed (a need that has been around since 1800BC), rather credit unions have not kept up with providing the experience (technology) that consumers expect.
I do not believe credit unions are unnecessary to the point we lose a few hundred every year, rather credit union leaders and volunteers have operated out of fear of the unknown, this refusing to change and innovate to remain relevant.
Let’s call out this statement in that notice to members posted above:
The credit union has not grown in size or membership participation for several years and has been faced with increasing operational, regulatory and compliance expenses; lack of managerial expertise, aging Board of Directors and no effective succession plans.
That’s not for lack of opportunity; it’s because of lack of leadership and strategic planning for credit unions. As we continue into this new year, I urge you to have some tough conversations with the leadership of your credit union. Here are three places to start:
- Do any of our board members represent our ideal member? If not, why is this not a priority? If so, are those voices being heard and respected?
- Are we sacrificing opportunity for comfort? What legacy thoughts and processes are we clinging to for safety as opposed to innovating to provide the desired experience for our ideal member?
- What is my decision-making process as a leader? Am I holding on to what is comfortable in an attempt for job security (often in vain), or am I taking risks that will allow us to remain relevant and thriving for the next generation?
I am not coming from a holier-than-thou place to call our credit union leaders out. These are questions that I ask as a credit union board member, but also as a business owner. I can look back over the last few years and see missed opportunities to innovate and grow a better business for the sake of comfort and security. My takeaway:
You’ll be promised this year, but you will not be guaranteed next year.
Stop allowing your words and actions to be that of sleepers. Stop prioritizing short-term security over long-term success. Stop taking away credit unions that could be a vital resource to your community for the sake of your personal and professional comfort.