What’s a Credit Union to do in Order to Compete with those “B-words”?

Image Credit: mncun.org

Image Credit: mncun.org

The question at the top of every CEOs mind: How can we ensure our survival into the future?  As we pore through every blog, article, and piece of research that we can get our hands on, we’re all looking for the same answer.  We’re directed to offer the best suite of financial services, have an online presence, “speak” to millennials, and offer the best rates.  We work diligently to be the best while our competitors - those 4-letter-word financial institutions - are doing the exact same.  To beat them, we need to do what credit unions do best: be our cooperative selves!  Thus my idea for the Financial Fun Fair was born.  To learn more about this innovative idea, check out my initial application and watch my application video therein.  This project will increase our membership by embracing the Cooperative Principles at a community level, bringing increased awareness of the Credit Union Difference!

Cooperation: Among Cooperatives
While many of the projects and ideas suggested to us are aimed at singular credit unions or internally at our employees, I am launching my project at a chapter level.  I don’t just want my credit union to survive; I want the Credit Union Movement as a whole to thrive. Henry Ford phrases it best when he says, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” While the “b-words” may do community service, you’d never see two or more of them partner up. This cooperation is our competitive edge. We need to embrace the cooperative mindset in order to bring the most value to the credit union industry as a whole, and that is exactly what my project does.

Community: People Helping People
We all know what makes us different from the others, but our communities don’t.  However, according to research in the August 2015 issue of Credit Union Magazine, 73% of nonmembers were more likely to patronize businesses that were involved in the community.  This community service focus is our golden ticket! After all, we’re simply not being “us” if we don’t work together to better our community. By hosting this event to benefit a charity within our community, we become “people helping people”.

Education: Financial Literacy
My passion for the Credit Union Difference is closely matched by that for financial education. When I tell people I’m a Collections Specialist, I usually get a look of disgust and sometimes asked “How do you sleep at night?”.  I simply respond “I work at a credit union”.  It opens up an opportunity to explain why that is different: I get to help people build budgets and regain financial stability in times of hardship.  I always love the next question of “How do I sign up?”. This serves as a clear example of what I know to be true: credit unions have the best platform from which to provide this service to our communities. Last time I checked, the competition doesn’t have education in their core principles.

A SMART Plan: The “How” of Credit Union Prosperity
So where does the Financial Fun Fair, fit into all this? At a meeting between the CEOs of all the credit unions that my chapter serves and the Board, I presented this idea and was ecstatic when it met with support from all of our credit unions! Tracie Kenyon, CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network, even suggested during the meeting that I make this project something that could be rolled out at chapters state-wide. If credit unions in my chapter were eager to get involved and work together, other chapters probably would be, as well. The potential is almost limitless!

I’ve ran through all the details, working hard to arrange what this project will entail, including a fundraiser for CU4K and several financial education events. We’ve budgeted for the event to begin in the fall of 2016 (during Credit Union weekJ) for our Chapter, and will have the idea ready to be presented to Montana Chapters in spring 2016 as a template.

Eventually, these Fairs will spread across the state and the nation! This opportunity allows us to serve our communities, provide financial education, and encourages cooperation among cooperatives. My project embodies three out of seven of the Cooperative Principles, and the awareness it will bring is the key to increased membership and prosperity. To beat our 4-letter-word financial institution competitors, the answer is simple: be a cooperative.

Ally Haegele