Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Lesson to be Learned

The hot topic right now for credit union professionals is, surprise, the conservatorship of US Central and WesCorp credit unions and the corporate stabilization plan. As a colleague of mine (who will remain unnamed) said to me yesterday, “it’s legalized stealing”.

How many consumers say that about their bank or (hopefully less frequently) credit union on a regular basis?

As much as the corporate stabilization plan is going to hurt the bottom line for all credit unions this year I see a thin silver lining. That silver lining is a lesson for all of us to learn.

We (natural person credit unions) are members of the corporate CU’s the same as our members are a part of our credit unions. It doesn’t feel good to have your credit union take money from you for a purpose you don’t find logical or beneficial does it?

We need to make sure our members never feel like we do right now. We should never allow our members to feel like their credit union is engaging in “legalized stealing”. When finding ways to recover from, or ride out, the storm make sure you keep that in mind. Don’t pass that feeling on to your members just because your corporate CU did it to you and the quick fix is to add fees and raise existing ones.

I guess we should all listen to our moms and treat others the way we’d like to be treated.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Its All About The Teamwork!

In my last post I talked about how the board needs to be involved, active, and dynamic. An anonymous commenter said:

I agree with the idea of getting the word out to members about board positions, and trying to encourage qualified candidates to apply for those spots.

But, I may say that the proposal of ideas comes primarily from the CEO and/or the EVP. They are responsible for presenting ideas to the board and then discussing the possibilities of those ideas with them. It is then ultimately up to the board of Directors whether or not to approve funding for any projects that are approved.

The board’s primary responsibility to ensure the credit union is being run in a sound and secure manner. Although they may have ideas that are presented at board meetings they rely very heavily upon senior management to verify weather or not those ideas are justifiable in terms of cost and return.

Credits unions that lack ideas may lack an enthusiastic management team. After all it is the managers that need to inspire the bored board; not the other way around.

For the most part I agree with this masked commenter. However, as Matt the CUwarrior put it, this way of thinking leads to a “chicken/egg argument”. You can’t have one without the other. The board and management (and every level of the institution for that matter) need to work as a team to bring new ideas to the table. They need to inspire each other.

The board should bring ideas from outside the membership. From people they see in their everyday lives; their friends, coworkers, and associates. The management needs to bring ideas in from inside the credit union. From the front line, from the membership who are in the branch, and their friends, family, and coworkers. Everybody has a different circle of contacts and experiences. Why wouldn’t we want to bring in information and ideas from as many perspectives as possible?

The idea creation process can not be placed solely on this person or that person. To be effective, the institution needs to work as a whole to bring in new ideas and cultivate the ones that they believe have potential. Without teamwork, metaphorical “choke points” will hamper any attempt at innovation. Every single person needs to be on board.

I talked about this in an earlier post called “Are You Jamming”, in which I tried to draw a parallel between my experiences in music and the creative process within a credit union.

As I’ve continued learning and experimenting the parallel is more apparent to me then ever.

It is pointless to argue about whether it is the board’s job to motivate management or management’s job to motivate the board. Its like arguing over which one is playing bass and which one is playing guitar. Without one or the other, the “band” can not function as a whole.

Any kind of collaborative, creative process is a team effort. If one member of that team isn’t playing the team falls apart.