If there was ever a time when credit unions and their brands have felt besieged, 2020 is it. It seems as if we are surrounded on all sides by challenges, setbacks, confusion and disarray. In many ways, that is an accurate depiction of the situation. However, there is another way to look at it.
A quote attributed to legendary United States Marine Chesty Puller comes to mind. In a message sent during the Korean War Battle of Chosin Reservoir in December 1950, Puller reportedly said:
“They are in front of us, they are behind us and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us. They can’t get away from us now!”
That’s certainly a bold and brave statement from someone facing such seemingly insurmountable odds. Enemy troops in front, enemy troops behind, enemy troops on all sides. Outnumbered and the odds stacked against you. Bad news served with a heaping helping of more bad news.
While credit unions aren’t surrounded by literal enemy military forces, they are certainly besieged by powerful challenges. A global pandemic. Financial and economic turmoil and uncertainty. A tumultuous election year and all the regulatory challenges that might loom. Profits down, delinquencies up, all while trying to maintain their hard-fought and rightfully-earned reputation as the financial champion of the common citizen.
While you may not be able to control these forces surrounding your credit union, you can, like Chesty Puller, decide how you react to them. Instead of curling up into a ball and wishing this would all just go away, take the more realistic and proactive approach of “they can’t get away from us now!”
What are the potential positives in this roiling sea of negatives? Consider the following:
Credit unions are being forced to look at the world in new ways. With this perspective, the collective kick in the pants our industry is taking provides an opportunity for growth and development that might never have presented itself before. You probably can’t do things the way they’ve always been done (a classic knee-jerk response to change) because many of the “old ways” are on pause at best and obliterated at worst. The current crisis is a reminder that nothing is permanent and nothing can be taken for granted. British author L.P. Hatley observed “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Great unthought ideas are not merely the stuff of idle talk, they now propel innovation and evolution. Use these times as an opportunity to view the world and your credit union’s place in it in ways of which you never dreamt before. A marketing assessment is a powerful tool that can help your credit union take stock of what works, what doesn’t, and what can help you grow in the future.
Credit union members faced with new crises have new needs. Guess what? You have the unique and powerful opportunity (and obligation) to step up, address those new needs and solidify your brand as the hero in your members’ financial narrative. New needs means new member journeys. Journey mapping your members’ experience is a great way to clearly define what being a member of your credit union looks, sounds, and feels like, from an ever-evolving consumer perspective.
Credit unions can now leverage technology in amazing new ways. The pandemic rapidly shifted many members away from in-person interaction to using more digital and remote tools. The rapid rise in use of mobile banking, text and video chat and ITMs are prime examples. From a cost and efficiency perspective, credit unions tried for years to attract members to these tools. Now, members flock to them. As long as your credit union understands that behind every great technology there must be great people and a great brand experience, technology during these times can guide you towards an even more dynamic and interactive relationship with members.
There’s no doubt times are tough and no guarantee they will magically get better in the immediate future. History shows that, time and again, amazing new businesses and business models are born from the most difficult eras. If your credit union has a positive attitude, open to change and innovation, even while surrounded on all sides by challenges, you can still win the battle. Go get ‘em!