At the 2015 Fiserv Forum, our annual client conference, former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar told credit union executives, “If you're not growing, you're falling behind.”
To remain relevant, credit unions must have a vision for growth measured against quantifiable goals related to assets, members, branches, shares, employees, and loans.
We can all learn from credit unions that are growing assets, attracting new members, and delivering services that keep pace with member’s busy lives.
To address the “why” and “how” for achieving growth, I moderated a panel at Fiserv Forum with CEOs from three thriving credit unions, who shared their personal experiences and insights.
We covered five main areas: reaching members through the branch and digital channels, leveraging marketing and business development, the role of mergers and acquisitions, managing staffing and investing in growth, and learning from peers.
I’ll cover the first two areas in this article, and the remaining three in a second article.
The CEOs on the panel included:
Since Linda Walker took over Riverdale Credit Union in 2001, assets have increased from $22.6 million to $65.4 million—a 190% increase—and the number of members has risen from 4,000 to nearly 11,000.
Lily Newfarmer became the CEO at Tarrant County’s Credit Union in 2001, when it had $21 million in assets and 4,970 members. Now, assets are $80 million, a 280% increase, and membership is at 10,500.
Hudson River Community Credit Union had $90 million in assets and 21,000 members when Sue Commanda became the CEO in 2006. The credit union now has $205 million in assets, a 128% increase, and 24,000 members.
All three credit unions hold a community charter. Although having one was not part of their growth strategy, the CEOs believe they could not have achieved the growth they did if they had not converted to a community charter, which also has kept them competitive in the market.
Reaching members in branches and online
The panelists agreed that increasing membership (and hence, assets) requires creating ease of access and positive experiences for members.
Providing a balance between digital and brick-and-mortar access has helped each of these credit unions grow.
Hudson River Community, for instance, uses branches as educational points for teaching members about online services. Tarrant County’s also follows this approach, and offers in-branch demonstrations of online and mobile services.
While members are in the lobby waiting to be helped, employees use tablets to show members how to use technology on their own so they can carry out transactions comfortably when the branches are closed.
Hudson River Community also partnered with FinPro, which used marketing customer information file data from Raddon to analyze the market based on product propensity and household compatibility so it could plan more strategically.
Branch traffic at Riverdale is always heavy, to the point that members wait outside in lawn chairs for the branch to open when their monthly checks arrive. Clearly, many members want to be served in person and appreciate the access to branch staff.
To provide self-service options, Riverdale also incorporates in-branch teaching, showing members how to set up online banking or download mobile applications.
Leveraging marketing and business development
Marketing and business development are crucial levers credit unions can pull to execute growth strategies.
Tarrant County’s increased its commitment in this area, creating a position dedicated to business development in the community. It also plans to add a position focusing on social media to reach younger members and prospects who essentially live in that realm.
For the past two years, Hudson River Community has run a robust refer-a-member program, paying $50 to the new member and $50 to the referring member. The credit union has found the benefits of gaining the new members outweigh the cost of the program.
Riverdale markets primarily through support of community-based initiatives that aim to provide a better quality of life for area residents. For instance, it thanks local industry during Industry Week, promotes high school graduation, and supports campaigns against drug abuse.
Staying top of mind through community exposure increases the possibility that residents seeking a loan will think of Riverdale first.
In part two of this article, I will explore how mergers and acquisitions, managing staffing and investment in growth, and peer interactions can contribute to the long-term success of credit unions—with additional insight from our CEO panel.