Highlights From CUNA’s ACUC

Speakers challenged credit unions to become better leaders for the future of their credit unions.

August 1, 2012

The state of the credit union industry is “outstanding,” with $1 trillion in assets and the addition of two million new members during the past 15 months.

That’s the good news CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney shared with attendees at CUNA’s America’s Credit Union Conference (ACUC) in San Diego. But long term, the movement could suffer without a unified vision.

“For too long we’ve let others define what credit unions are and what we should be,” Cheney said. CUNA is close to rolling out a new vision for the credit union movement, Cheney added. It will be based on “common values that can be building blocks for the future: ‘People helping people’ and ‘people before profit’ are part of our foundation. We’re all member-focused, cooperative, and not-for-profit.

“What if we could agree on the vision that Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner?” he continued. “A vision that could lead us from today’s 95 million members to 100 million?” 

“Credit unions are good at what they do, but is that enough?” asked CUNA Chairman Mike Mercer. “Good won’t be good enough.”

He compared the movement to good sports teams that make it to the playoffs but have yet to win the big game. “In some ways, being good is worse than being bad,” said Mercer, president/CEO of the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates. “If you’re bad, you have license to make big changes. If you’re good, it’s ‘let’s not mess with things,’ or ‘we’ll just work a little harder next year.’

Credit unions have had impressive victories: surviving the recession in good shape, handling the “corporate network solvency problems without affecting public confidence,” being recognized by high-profile consumer advocates, and benefiting from the Bank Transfer Day uprising.

“But we’re having trouble winning the playoffs,” he said. “There hasn’t been a noticeable gain in market share; we’re not that exciting to Generation Y, or so they say; we’re burdened by regulation; we’re confined by internal capital growth rates; and we’re obstructed by banks, retailers, and Wall Street muscle in Washington.

“Does being good for decades keep us from doing what it takes to be great? Keep us from claiming big chunks of new market share? Keep us from leveraging the buying power of 90 million members?” Mercer asked. “These will be the pivotal questions for our generation of leaders in American cooperative finance.”

Speakers challenged credit unions to become better leaders for the future of their credit unions.

For example:

Business guru Tom Peters is a fan of small- and midsize companies, including credit unions. “All of the big companies are ugly,” he said. “If you’re a midsize organization and can’t beat the giants, you should be ashamed. Being midsize is an opportunity to be different. You’re the agile creature that darts between the legs of the monsters.”

Peters offered attendees these four business lessons:

1. Take care of your people; give them the respect and recognition they deserve. The four most important words in any organization are, “What do you think?”

2. Realize the importance of front-line supervisors. They run the show. “Any idiot can be a vice president.”

3. Strive for excellence every day, in everything you do, even if you don’t achieve it. “I don’t understand people who don’t pursue excellence every day. You won’t necessarily get there, but why not try?”

4. Focus on the small things—tiny touches can have a huge payoff.

People can rewire their brains for higher levels of happiness—and in the process become more successful in business and relationships, Shawn Achor said.

Author of “The Happiness Advantage” and former Harvard professor, Achor conducts research on the link between happiness and success. He found three main predictors of happiness: an optimistic mindset, social support, and the ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat. “Happiness is the precursor to success—not the result of it.”

Optimists at work result in better business outcomes, Achor said, including greater sales, more creativity, and more productivity.

Achieving and maintaining long-term happiness requires training your brain to focus on positive patterns, Achor said. Take these five steps each day:

1. Write down three new things that happened during the previous 24 hours for which you’re grateful.

2. Write down, for 21 consecutive days, one meaningful thing that happened to you during the previous 24 hours. “This changes us from being task-based to meaning-based.”

3. Participate in 15 minutes of mindful, physical activities, such as walking or gardening. Doing this for the long-term has the same effect on the brain as an antidepressant.

4. Concentrate for two minutes only on your breathing.

5. Conduct acts of kindness. Send an email to a friend or relative each day to recognize, praise, or thank them. This helps build social networks. “The lack of a social network has the same effect on your health as smoking and heart disease.”

Author John Izzo interviewed 250 people ages 60 to 106 about life lessons. He shared five secrets he discovered from those interviews:

1. Be true to yourself.

2. Leave no regrets—and don’t live in regret.

3. Become a loving person.

4. Train your mind for happiness.

5. Give more than you take.

When a brand is fascinating, people will try harder to find it and be more engaged with it, and they’ll remain more loyal, said brand expert Sally Hogshead.

“Fascination is an intense emotional focus,” said Hogshead, when your brain is completely focused on one thing without distraction. This allows people to realize their greatest achievements and be the most effective.

“Your brain is hard-wired to fascinate and your brain is hard-wired to be fascinated,” she said. Marketing adds fascination to a brand, which in turn adds value.

By tapping into the seven fascination triggers, credit unions can command members’ attention, build member trust and loyalty, and, as a result, see bottom-line growth.

The seven triggers are:

1. Power: Take command.

2. Passion: Attract with emotion.

3. Mystique: Arouse curiosity.

4. Prestige: Increase respect.

5. Alarm: Create urgency.

6. Rebellion: Change the game.

7. Trust: Build loyalty.