Creative Destruction of the Credit Union Movement: Good or Bad?

As I facilitated a credit union strategic planning session for a high-performing credit union recently, the board chair asked a question that I had to think about carefully before I answered:

“Why should someone join our credit union as opposed to another, or even a big bank?”

There had to be an answer for a credit union that was well outperforming its peers and laser-focused on completing its last four years of strategic plans. It baffled me to hear this question come from a credit union that had the answer and wasn’t looking for the answer. We knew the answer but several days later as I’m typing these thoughts from the beach with time to think, I have MY answer to that question, from a higher level and not member facing.

Creative destruction.

It’s about destructing mindsets that hold credit unions back. It’s the formula that we use to help our boutique (smaller) credit unions play offense and not defense, where we get to own the market and the conversation. Through thoughtful strategy and creativity, we shift the focus of the consumer to our credit union to answer the question “what’s in it from me” for members and potential members.

The “but we have everything the big banks do and better service” is merely your entry fee to compete, and certainly not the reason people will want to join your credit union en masse. If that were the case, you would already be growing loans and members with very little effort. There’s got to be something more.

The growth of members, loans, and other key metrics are consequences based on your credit union’s strategic planning and execution. If those numbers are low, I can almost guarantee your strategy and creativity are taking a backseat to the low-hanging fruit you’re picking, like indirect lending programs.

Find a way to put strategy and creativity back into your credit union. Strategy keeps you focused, and creativity turns the conversation upside down and in your favor. The younger members you crave to attract to your credit union demand these actions, to return excitement to your credit union and walk away from boring.

How long before your credit union doesn’t matter anymore? You have got to be honest about the quality of your credit union’s strategic planning and creative. Are you a commodity that “has everything the big banks have” or do you have something to offer a niche that cannot be served by anyone else?

In the case of the credit union mentioned at the beginning of this article, they are building a brand. They have a very focused ideal member no one else in their community is willing to serve. Despite “a bank branch on every corner,” they are winning in ways that are making other credit unions and even a community bank ask, “How are you doing it?!?”

If you want to achieve success like this at your credit union, we can help. We’re not the silver bullet that can flip a switch and make your credit union successful. But we can ask the questions to help you gain perspective and work with you on strategy and creative to help you build a brand and grow amid the commodities in your market.

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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