Monday, May 23, 2011


Do you believe that in a cooperative society, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

I couldn’t help but consider the concept after reading an article last week in the Credit Union Times. Submitted by Natasha Chilingerian, it was titled, Credit Unions Lag for First Time in Annual Online Banking Survey

The survey found that consumers are less satisfied with the online banking services of credit unions than they are with those of banks. The author of the report, Larry Freed, explained the rationale in an interview with Credit Union Times, where he emphasized the growing pressure credit unions face in competing with large banks in the area of online banking.

“Overall when you look at the score, it’s still a strong score,” Freed told Credit Union Times. “But at the end of the day, credit unions are facing some challenges. Because of the consolidations that have taken place, large banks have become more focused on the customer than they were before. And as they deploy new channels, such as mobile channels, the bar is being raised for credit unions to keep up.” 

(Access the full report at ForeSee Results)

Sporting a sudden interest in customer service, big banks are now forcing credit unions to work even harder to compete in the financial services marketplace. At first glance, one might evaluate this new challenge as insurmountable considering all the other challenges credit unions face today, from stagnant lending portfolios to an ever-expanding list of regulatory requirements. Yet, when faced with such challenges, credit unions should not despair. Unlike banks, credit unions have an inherent ability (always did) to reach out to one another and in unity generate the strength needed to overcome and persevere.

This is why I believe credit unions can compete when it comes to mobile banking platforms. I believe our movement has the ability to take banking technology to a whole new level by providing members with scores of new convenient services. We just need to provide the right services at the right prices and most important, back it up with genuine service quality, and I mean a level of quality that can only be experienced at credit unions. All we need to do is summon the courage to think and do things a little differently, and most of all trust in that which should be making us profoundly different from our banker counterparts—our cooperative nature.

The way I see it, the essence of our cooperative nature can inspire and drive credit unions to a level of performance and self-understanding never thought possible. It can open the door to new opportunities and a new generation of prosperity.

One example; cooperation can make a profound difference in the way credit unions do research and development. While many would say competing with the banks on a technical level requires millions in funding for R&D, I say there’s more than one way to win. If funding is the only requirement to compete than how is it that we still exist today? With somewhere from a six-to-10 percent market share, the credit union movement should have ended a long time ago. But it hasn’t because there’s just something more about the way credit unions do business.

So how can cooperation make a difference in R&D? Rather than watching a host of CUSOs, corporates, credit unions, and affiliate organizations compete with one another, spending valuable time and dollars designing and developing their own versions of, let’s say, a mobile banking or a payment settlement solution suppose they all combine their resources and talents into one cooperative venture? Imagine each one contributing its share toward a united credit union effort to develop world-class solutions that would ensure the competitive advantage we all desperately seek.

I’m not suggesting these organizations dissolve their businesses or merge with one another. What I am suggesting however, is a shift in understanding how each organization is to get to the finish line; not by squashing the competition as is the custom with shareholder-owned companies but as a winner among winners by placing the needs of the many before the needs of the few—by cooperating with others for the good of all credit unions.

Could such a reality be possible within the credit union system? Look around. I see plenty of evidence indicating we have the potential. Joining hands and resources in cooperation to ensure the prosperity of the movement is in the best interests of all—all credit unions, CUSOs, corporates, and affiliate organizations. Working together not only ensures prosperity for the movement but also ensures the longevity of each individual service provider and organization engaged for the one and only purpose of serving credit unions—serving the needs of the many.

Such a future of prosperity for credit unions could be a reality. Learning how to place the needs of the many before the needs of the few is one roadmap to prosperity.

1 comment:

  1. Walt,

    Thanks for sharing your insights and your passions. I love how committed you are to the credit union movement and philosophy. It is extremely hard for credit unions to compete by themselves on technology innovations. However, working together credit unions can develop some amazing things to keep ahead of the technology curve. As a movement, we must work together on technology (or we will die alone).