Does Your Credit Union Have Grit?

Grit is essential for survival. Life gives us challenges and we face most of them when we feel the least capable of handling them. I recently joined toastmasters and during the icebreaker of my first speech, I detailed my talent for being a klutz. It was in that moment I recognized that the story I was really telling was about grit.

This tale demonstrates my adventurous outlook on life, my somewhat hazardous manner of barreling through life to get everything done and the desire to experience as much as possible. All these characteristics are driven by grit, and I think they embody the characteristics I love best in the credit unions I work with.

The short version is that I was four years old and growing up in a rural Wisconsin neighborhood and the youngest by about eight years. I entered a bike race with the full intention of beating a large eighth-grade boy. There was a somewhat tragic ending where I was left with tire tracks running up and down my body and a fierce desire to finish the race if nothing else. There was much laughter at my ridiculous appearance and my response was less than graceful. I attempted to chase them until I was exhausted.

I felt pride because I did not cry, a little shame because of my angry response and a slight celebration because I went into the race without a second thought to the size difference between our bikes, and well, between us.

This story relates so closely to the spirit of so many credit unions. The struggles to stay on top of technology, dealing with staffing issues and competing in the market against banks, payday lenders and alternative options. There is so much hard work that goes into competing in the race.

In my story, the bike was our tool, and my challenge was winning against a much older and larger kid. I had a poor strategy. With credit unions, their tools are the services they offer and the people dedicated to serving members. Credit unions are challenged to:

  • Define why you exist as a credit union today.
  • Understand what niche market you serve the very best.
  • Serve the member with the experience needed to provide solutions that change lives for the better.
  • Carry out the culture throughout the credit union and into the future.
  • Plan ahead – don’t just chase as I did

It may not always be pretty. Sometimes we may feel like we’ve been run over by a bully on a ten-speed bike when pressure arises to merge, delinquency and charge offs skyrocket, examiners are not realistic, or staffing changes create gaps.

There is a special place for credit unions, and I believe it is more important today than ever with nearly 12 million Americans with payday loans that can have an interest as high as 400%!

Consumers are experiencing challenges every day and trying to push through. We have the opportunity to make a difference, and even if it is seemingly small, the impact can grow exponentially.

The moral of the story: there needs to be a plan to stay in the game and grow so we can help these consumers and not end up with tire tracks.

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