Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A REAL Solution For Service

I participated in a webcast today where a number of folks provided valuable information and commentary about the REAL Solutions program ( http://realsolutions.coop ).

In case you haven’t heard about REAL Solutions, it was established by the Filene Research Institute in 2004. It is a dynamic program providing credit unions access to tested business models and strategies in order for them to better reach and serve new (or developing) consumer markets. In 2007, REAL Solutions became the signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation.

The primary goal of REAL Solutions is to increase the number of credit unions that attract and serve young adults, immigrants, minorities, disabled citizens, seniors, and other low-wage and low-wealth working families. To be successful in meeting the needs of these consumers, credit unions must offer attractive products that are mutually beneficial to both the credit union and the consumer. To assist the credit unions in that effort, REAL Solutions transfers programs, information and skills to senior staff of state credit union leagues and associations. From there, each state league or association further adapts the program to meet its own unique priorities and that of its member credit unions as well.

Today REAL Solutions supports the outreach efforts of 650 credit unions in 34 states. Oh, and lest I forget, “REAL” stands for “Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing” Solutions.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

So, why is it then that in a movement obsessed with a mantra of people helping people; a movement motivated by a distinct set of values and principles (See Rochdale Principles, particularly member education and concern for community); a movement which takes great pride in its ability to serve the underserved, there are only some 654 credit unions out of thousands and 34 out of 50 states participating?

If the programs and expertise provided by REAL Solutions are tried and tested, the best of the best, then wouldn’t one think it’s a no-brainer to see credit union folks eagerly lining up to tap such a valuable resource? Or, are the remaining shops already maximizing the effort with their own initiatives?

After all, the REAL Solutions program not only enables a credit union to LIVE the business philosophy it preaches everyday, but to add to its bottom line by reaching out and attracting many new members in a manner that will enhance its brand identity, both in the financial services marketplace and in the local community as well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maintaining Our Edge

I came across a Tweet the other day that startled me. It was a re-tweet from James Lay in Utah, a credit union social media expert. It read:

“Listen up Houston CUs RT @adrienne78 I did not feel a warm greeting by more than one CU in my area but bank smiles and knows my name.”

Could this be so? Are credit unions starting to slip in the gains they achieved during the recent recession?

There’s a saying among surfers that once you climb to the crest of a wave you have to work all the harder to stay there!

Are we working harder to maintain the edge we realized during the past two to three years?

To do so, we have to continually look for new and exciting ways to maintain the buzz about the value credit unions have to offer, not only all the good things we delivered during the recession but the benefits we still can provide today and into the future. We have to do everything we can to hold on to those new members who walked through our doors the last couple of years, deeply frustrated by the behavior of banks.

There should be no doubt among us in knowing that right now the banks are shoveling tons of money as well as sweet, sweet honey — BIG TIME — at consumers to win them back.

Are we just going to sit there?