by: Randy Smith, Co-founder/Publisher, CUinsight.com
I’ve had quite the interesting credit union summer vacation. With time spent in San Diego, Traverse City, Seattle, Nashville, Charleston, Madison, Anaheim and of course a little time in Detroit where the Tigers went on a run while I was there. The funny part was in the beginning of June I thought it was going to be a quite summer. I’m glad it wasn’t.
I’m writing this at 30,000 feet heading back to Greenville, SC where I plan on staying put for the next couple months. We are putting the finishing touches on a new and improved CUinsight.com that we look forward to bringing to the credit union community this fall. I think you will love it.
I often spend time reflecting when flying home about the event I just attended, thinking of new and exciting things we can do with CUinsight and about life in general.
Today I find myself today reflecting on my credit union summer vacation. A summer that included a bike ride along the Pacific ocean, a life changing experience at the Gates Foundation, having cocktails on the deck of an aircraft carrier, a cherry festival, finding out a friend and someone I consider a mentor was leaving our industry, meeting Jesse Jackson, being named a Trailblazer, speaking in between NCUA Board Member Fryzel and Rep. Maxine Waters, three Detroit Tigers games, one Anaheim Angels game, and a golf outing for a good cause with some of my favorite credit union people that I am honored and privileged to call friends. I’m a lucky guy, I love my job and it’s all because of the people I have met. There was also a lot of work mixed in there as well.
While speaking at events and sitting in the back of the room listening to others a few things standout. I love being at credit union events. I love hearing the opinions of the people in the credit union industry. I ask credit union employees, vendors, regulators, board members and quite honestly anyone who I find myself talking to the same few questions it seems like. Just the basic how are things with you, your credit union/business and what are your feelings on our industry as a whole. Call it my informal summer survey.
I few things stand out this summer over last year:
Optimism. People I talked to seem to be generally more optimist this year then last. Business is picking up for most and much more activity going on. Just keep them off the topic of politics, then the optimism seems to go away.
Divergence. I was surprised at the difference in conversations I have with people from credit unions around the country. I noticed a divergence between credit unions that have a focus on growth of the credit union and truly competing with banks on all levels and the credit unions that focus on community development and the underservered. Here’s the interesting thing about it, asset size of the credit union didn’t matter. I had a board member of a multi billion-dollar credit union tell me the credit union doesn’t need to make more money it needs to give back and help build communities. I had a CEO of a small credit union that was at the conference to look for ideas on how to grow now that they had a community charter. Growth was paramount for her credit unions continued existence.
I think the next few years could be very interesting for our industry. We have momentum at the current time but will if continue? Will there be a cooperative voice? Will we become more like banks? Is there a balance that can move our industry into the future that doesn’t get away for the cooperative principals we were founded on?
Future. Gen Y/Millennial have been talked about for years. I found that senior management and board members were actually looking at it this summer on many different levels. Sessions about the generations and the differences between them were standing room only. The conversation revolved around a few specific issues. The first is always the age of the average member, need for younger members. The concerns that were surprising to me was the feeling that the CUs needed more participation from younger members on the board and the fear that there is a talent gap between the retiring senior management and having qualified people to step in is wide.
It makes for an interesting discussion on how you not only develop and retain your members but your top quality employees as well. Walk around anyone of these conferences and you will notice there are going to be a lot of open CEO positions and board seats over the next few years. Who’s going to fill them?
Parting Thoughts. I’ve have been running around the country telling anyone who will listen that as an industry we are too modest. Cooperatives in general are very popular right now. Local business and the local economy are popular topics currently. Big banks, Wall Street and huge corporations are out of favor. Two questions I will keep asking until I’m blue in the face, Do you think people in your community know you’re a cooperative financial institution? How many of your members know that you are? Are their other advocates in our communities for credit unions? How about other cooperatives? Are you their advocate?
I enjoy being an advocate for credit unions. I think we should all be proud of being credit unions; community based cooperative financial institutions. Times like these don’t last forever so we should probably take advantage of it. Tell everyone.
I want to recognize our friends that did such a great job putting together all these events this summer. The group at CUNA with ACUC, the sessions were full even with the sun shining and the perfect San Diego weather. It was my first trip to the MCUL Annual and the AACUC Annual and I hope it won’t be my last. Both are top-notch events. I would recommend hitting up AACUC in Detroit next year (I’ll let know where to go). CUES and Weber Marketing put together a great school that I would recommend any marketer go through next year. CUES also helps put on one heck of a golf outing for a good cause in Madison. The NAFCU crew hit a home run with their annual in Nashville this year, I heard nothing but good feedback.
To all my friends old and new around the credit union community, thank you for a great credit union summer vacation. I’m sure our paths will cross again soon.
Randy Smith is the co-founder and publisher of CUinsight.com, your one stop place for all things credit union. As the publisher of CUinsight.com Randy looks for new and innovative ways to spread the credit union message and keep the community informed. Randy works closely with individual credit unions, leagues and associations on a variety of topics including media relations, business development and strategic planning to get new ideas off the ground. Put simply, Randy likes to create and foster new ideas and watch them grow. In June of 2012 Randy was named a “CU Times Trailblazer 40 Below“. Randy has been cited and written for many publications and speaks at industry events to further the growth of the credit union movement. Randy can be reached at email@example.com or through Twitter www.twitter.com/CUinsight and Facebook www.facebook.com/CUinsight.