Is Your Credit Union At A Crossroads?

Whenever I think of the term “crossroads,” I think about the final scene in the Tom Hanks’ movie “Cast Away.”  Those of you who have seen the film will remember that after being trapped on an island after a plane crash, Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland is finally rescued and returns to his life in Memphis.  When he arrives, he learns that his fiancée (whom he hasn’t seen in years) has married and has a child.  Noland was declared legally dead after being missing for so long.  Chuck is left at a “crossroads” – 2 intersecting roads (paths) which go in all 4 directions.  The movie ends with Noland standing smack in the middle contemplating his next move.

OK – so this isn’t a movie review but I think that the final scene in “Cast Away” provides a pretty good image (metaphorically speaking) of what I want to write about in this post.

It’s no secret that the credit union industry has benefited from the “hiccups” that big banks are experiencing.  Overall membership is up and last quarter’s industry financials were some of the best ever reported.  When an organization experiences this kind of growth (or stagnation,) it often finds itself at a crossroads.  Credit unions are no different.

Since our industry is ever-evolving, credit unions must continue to improve and create additional value.  Let’s compare this to a personal crossroads that you may have experienced in your life – you may have felt anxious, unsure, apprehensive, excited, nervous, elated, etc. all at the same time!  For many credit unions, there is certainly that crossroads-type of feeling.  Through my discussions with credit union leaders and executives, I find myself suggesting that they start asking some challenging questions.  Too often, management personnel (at all levels) find themselves dealing with minutia and nonsense instead of strategizing, planning, and thinking. Here are some examples of the crossroads questions that I encourage my clients to ask:

Where are we going as an organization? Who do we want to serve? Who are we and are we effectively communicating our brand? Do we need to re-brand ourselves to create more awareness in the communities we serve?  What are we willing to risk?  What are we not willing to give up or change? Do we have the proper infrastructure in place for what we want to achieve? Do we have top-notch talent working at our organization? Can we make tough decisions regarding non-productive employees? What are the things that are holding us back? Are we committed to fixing what is broken and improving upon what is not?  Are we fully committed to the steps that we have decided to take?

Being at a crossroads can seem overwhelming and rightly so.  But one of the truest measures of personal, organizational, or professional success is this: when you find yourselves at a crossroads, will you have the fortitude to ask tough questions….and will you have the courage to answer them?


About Your Full Potential, LLC

I am the President of Your Full Potential, LLC and the Founder of ABSURD! Leadership. I am a professional speaker and have addressed thousands of people throughout the United States and internationally on the topics of leadership, sales, service, business development, marketing, and strategy.
This entry was posted in Building Relationships, Business Development, Change, Credit Unions, Leadership, Management, Performance, Strategic Planning. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Is Your Credit Union At A Crossroads?

  1. There was a time not long ago when credit unions never had to ask the question, “Who do we want to serve?” But the community charter killed precisely what it was about credit unions that made them unique and successful. Now they are stuck in the same boat with every other banking provider: “How can we differentiate amongst a sea of me-too, lookalike brands who sell and say the same stuff to the same people?”


    • Thanks for your comment!

      It is true that with the dawn of community charters, credit unions now have more challenges. But they also have more opportunities. Those who have made the switch from SEG-based to community as well as those who have been granted under-served areas must work harder to spread awareness and to create momentum. Many have done so successfully. The ones that are struggling are finding that they did not have the planning, infrastructure, or capacity to penetrate the larger service areas. This is why that it is crucial for CU’s to determine target markets and to formulate and work a plan that will help them achieve their goals. I always find myself going back to the “Field of Dreams” tagline – “If you build it, they will come.” While this may have been true for a ball field in the middle of cornstalks in Iowa, the same cannot be said for credit unions. CU’s have to go out and get the business.

      Keep the comments coming and thanks for reading!



    • Bill Clancy says:

      “How can we differentiate among a sea of me-too, lookalike brands who sell and say the same stuff to the same people?”

      The funny/sad/maddening reality is that most will turn to consultants and/or “industry best practices” to answer that question….and end up looking, feeling and smelling like every other bank or credit union. Banking doesn’t have to be a commodity product unless we allow it to be — look no further than Simple, Moven, Finnovate, etc. for proof that plenty of opportunities for differentiation exist. But only if we’re willing and able to take on the discomfort (and reward) that risk brings.


  2. Mark Arnold says:

    Love the Castaway reference: that last scene is incredibly haunting (or will drive you crazy is my wife’s perspective!). And yes, credit unions are certainly at a cross roads. Will we choose to go down the same path or will we take risks? Credit unions would be well served to try some new strategies and tactics. Here’s an additional question to add to your list: what are going to do DIFFERENT this year?


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