Last week I had the extraordinary privilege of being the keynote presenter at a Small Credit Union CEO Boot Camp in Columbus, Ohio. It was a joint venture sponsored by the Ohio Credit Union League and NCUA’s Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives (OSCUI.)
Attended by several dozen CEOs of smaller credit unions, the discussions related to the workshops were robust and informative, collaborative and encouraging. In fact, I would say that the attendees themselves were the real keynoters! These folks are passionate about the credit union industry and are wholly dedicated to their own individual credit unions. While many of those in attendance are facing budgetary limitations and other challenges when it comes to offering new products and services, they are still working hard for their members and it is evident that they are pushing themselves as well as their employees to go beyond what would be reasonably expected of a small shop.
I wanted to share some key insights that I received when I was speaking to these extraordinary credit union leaders.
Size does matter: While the current economic climate can be a bit unfriendly to smaller credit unions, the fact remains that small shops still account for most of the credit unions throughout the country. Together, they are a strong force for their members and their communities. Through the Ohio CUL and the OSCUI, the attendees are taking advantage of the many resources that are available that will not only sustain them, but will hopefully allow them to thrive.
Some small credit unions will not survive: It’s sad to say but it is the reality of the marketplace. Consumer demand will simply be too big for some of the smaller credit unions to survive….on their own. A lot of credit unions resist mergers due to a sense of heritage and pride and that is admirable. However, it may be just as important (if not more so) to swallow that pride and accept that, in order to properly serve members, the best decision may be to join forces with others. Remember – credit unions exist to serve their members. It will be necessary for some credit unions to make the difficult decisions in the months and years ahead in order to continue to provide the best financial experience to the people that depend on them the most. I got the impression last week that these leaders understand this reality which leads me to the third insight that I picked up….
The credit union industry NEEDS the dedicated leaders from smaller credit unions: Talk about perspective! From just a financial wellness viewpoint, these professionals will be able to share their own experiences and provide suggestions and insight that may not otherwise be available. As I said, these folks are talented, driven, and motivated. I tried my best to remind the conference attendees that they are needed, they are wanted, they are valued, and that the industry will be stronger if they stick around.Many credit unions leagues throughout the country have resources for small credit unions – take a look at them, get in contact, ask questions. The OSCUI itself has loans and grants available as well as a myriad of other resources and tools that small credit unions can use to improve productivity and performance.
The credit union industry is at a pivotal moment so let’s not waste it. Let’s move forward together!