Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Ever have an experience that found you tethered to home while all your buds or peeps were off on a school trip or a semester-break vacation? Did you find that all your thoughts were focused on them; what they were doing and the kinds of activities they were experiencing? That’s how I felt last week during the 2012 GAC.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I couldn’t make it to DC this year for the GAC. Since I’ve attended the event a number of times in past years, I’m quite familiar with each day’s agenda, from the annual CUDE gathering at Michael Ray’s home the Saturday before the conference kicks off to the Embassy Reception, Wegner Dinner, Trailblazer Awards, and Hill visits, to name a few. Well, as you might guess, last week, all my thoughts were on my colleagues and friends in Washington, and everything I was missing!

As I followed the tweets, slide shows and the day-to-day reporting in the Journal, Times, News Now, and on CUinsight, I began to think about the way we use social media including the traditional news communication channels that served us for generations. Something was missing!

You know what I’m talking about. We could look at family photos and read letters from relatives all day long but nothing beats those old 8mm movies and VHS videos of family gatherings. We’re a people who have been conditioned to turn to TV as our primary source of information when major events are breaking. Let’s face it, we are conditioned to get information LIVE—as it is happening, not the next day from a newspaper or after the event has concluded. So you could imagine how I felt last week, keeping up with the numerous streams of communication that still left me feeling worlds apart from all the action.

So, what can be done about it?

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that someone will read this blog post and take it back to the committee for action, or forward it on to people who can. The pizzazz of Twitter is fading. Slide shows are good but they present the info after the fact and without names. While columns in the trades offer an accurate summary, they are word-based and lack the energy that comes with seeing and listening to an event as it unfolds.

In an era that finds both audio and video ruling the Internet, I found no one tapping that medium in a LIVE format. The only one I saw who came the closest to doing so was my friend, Mike Bridges at the League of Southeast Credit Unions. Take a look at the great job he did for his members. (LSCU Web-TV).

Mike shot, hosted and produced his video reports, and then posted them to the league’s website for access on the following day. Randy Smith shared them as well with his audiences via CUinsight.

However, as good as this effort is, it still falls short of seeing a daily LIVE roundup of all the activities those of us at home had to miss. With people like Mike Bridges and the many credit union techies already producing a wide assortment of LIVE webcast presentations for their members, we wouldn’t have to look far for experts skilled in producing this new “Credit Union Web-TV” service.

If what goes on at the GAC is vital to our movement and important enough to merit the attention and participation of all credit union aficionados, then the time has come for CUNA or someone else in the communications arena to give serious consideration to offering LIVE Web-TV coverage of such activities.

After all, why should the credit union system view itself any differently than the many others who are tapping video to further expand their audiences? The annual E-3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) offers LIVE Web-TV coverage of its conference (E-3 Web-TV). The same is true for the investment services company, Morningstar. It offered LIVE interviews with panelists participating in its 2011 ETF Invest Conference (Morningstar Web-TV). And let’s not forget the Big East Conference. They, too, offer LIVE Web-TV coverage, albeit more of the sporting variety.

And, here’s yet another; pushing the envelope directly to the mobility of my Blackberry. On Tuesday night of last week, I received a tweet with a link to LIVE video coverage as it was unfolding of Mitt Romney claiming victory in the Illinois Primary. All I had to do is click the link on my Blackberry and I would have been connected LIVE to Romney and his message, even though I was miles from my home in Temecula.

As you can see, what I’m proposing is nothing new. It does not have to cost an arm and a leg to produce. Charge a subscription fee if need be, to help offset production costs. Include commercials to attract sponsor support. As for attendance levels, I don’t see it diminishing attendance because the best form of networking will always be person to person. In fact, I’d be willing to bet it would help increase attendance by showing everyone what they’re missing.

Most important, LIVE Web-TV coverage would inject new energy into the credit union community, heightening conference agendas and enhancing the way our cooperative system educates and motivates its followers. It would give everyone the opportunity to participate and become engaged in the agenda.

I see it as a primary communications channel we can no longer ignore.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I recently read an article in CUNA News Now reporting on the national coverage credit unions are receiving as major financial institutions continue to raise fees and add others for their services. The article illustrated how credit union membership is expanding as a result of consumer disillusionment with their banking institutions, noting, “Credit unions added 1.3 million new memberships in 2011, bringing total membership to a record 91.8 million by the end of 2011.”

Certainly, the silver platter continues to be presented to credit unions and I’m willing to bet that most shops are adding these new members to their rosters simply sitting down and doing nothing extra about it. Sounds like an easy come, easy go scenario to me.

On the other hand, there are shops actively engaged in exploring new ways to capitalize on the newfound popularity they are attracting among American consumers, looking for every possible way to entrench the new members in their products, services and culture so they’ll remain active users of the credit union for many years to come.

In support of that effort, I propose credit unions consider an initiative far different from what they may have ever done before, well, at least to my best knowledge. As I see it, credit unions could slam dunk the ball right now in building their brand reputation and member loyalty if they were to seize the financial stage by launching a national campaign which I am calling, America’s Credit Unions: Our Pledge to You.

I propose that we as a movement deliver a pledge that clearly and concisely states what a consumer can count on experiencing from any of America’s 7,500-plus credit unions.

Whether it’s called a pledge, a guarantee, a creed, or a promise, such a commitment from credit unions would certainly drive home the difference between their cooperative business model and the shareholder model governing the banking community. It’s a great way of being proactive; underscoring the distinct value consumers will receive in return for placing their hard-earned money into a credit union’s hands.

Offering a pledge at this moment in time also demonstrates that credit unions are just not sitting back as consumers move their money from the banks, but are seriously paying attention to what consumers are expressing by their actions—a burgeoning dissatisfaction with the way they continue to be treated by the banking community. It’s a frustration fueling not only their lack of trust with the bankers but the Move Your Money initiative as well.

I believe the time is ripe for credit unions to draw a line in the sand and boldly communicate their set of beliefs and principles to the American public. It would launch a move that could elevate the banking relationship in this country to a whole new level, one that a shareholder model could never approximate.

So, what would such a pledge look like?

Starbucks says,
“If your coffee isn’t perfect, we’ll make it over. If it’s still not perfect, make sure you’re in a Starbucks.”

The Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award-winning Ritz-Carlton Hotel expresses its pledge as:
“The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed yet refined ambience. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”

Others like Hawaiian Air, Jiffy Lube and even the Long Island Railroad have distinguished their reputations for service through a customer pledge and are reaping the benefits because of it.

For America’s credit unions, the pledge must imbue the cooperative philosophy and principles that distinguish its business model in the financial services marketplace. The pledge should include statements on treating members like owners with personalized service, respect and courtesy, and providing them with the best possible yield and lowest fees. It might also include a commitment to social responsibility, member education and the local community.

Drafting such a pledge would need to be a collective and collaborative effort. To be successful, the pledge must resonate will all credit union executives and be something all of us would be proud to see included in advertisements and communications, as well as after our names in every e-mail we’d send out. I can see the many talented folks at the Filene Institute leading the charge in drafting the initial version for us all.

Of course, once drafted, the pledge would earn its legitimacy from an endorsement of credit unions throughout the country. Could you imagine having the thousands of attendees at the GAC or America’s Credit Union Conference voting on and ratifying such a pledge? What a legacy it would establish for that annual gathering!

But why stop here? A similar pledge could be drafted for any of the other cooperative business sectors in the United States, further associating the cooperative identity we all share in common with the United Nations celebration of the International Year of Cooperatives.

Take a moment with your senior staff or board members to consider the influence such an initiative could have on your credit union—your employees, your members, their loyalty, and your reputation and perception in the marketplace.

America’s Credit Unions: Our Pledge to You. Maybe it’s our turn to present the silver platter to America’s consumers?


Originally published on CUinsight