Finding and cultivating a strategic focus is essential to small credit unions, and a major reason why Teri Robinson was able to turn her credit union around. Robinson, president/CEO of Ironworkers USA FCU, Portland, Ore. and chair of CUNA’s Small Credit Union Committee, shared her thoughts on small credit union success in a Credit Union Times op-ed.
Robinson describes taking over a credit union around 10 years ago that was struggling with net-worth restoration and a “disastrous” CAMEL rating. But after finding inspiration in the members, and knowing her credit union was best positioned to help them, she helped get things moving in the right direction.
“Last year, the CUNA Small Credit Union Committee identified the four biggest barriers to success for small credit unions: Having talented staff, adding members, collaboration, and, perhaps most importantly, finding and cultivating a strategic focus or niche,” she wrote. “That last point is probably the biggest reason why we’ve not only turned things around, but grown exponentially.”
Robinson described interacting more with members to learn what services were most relevant to them, and then shaping marketing around that.
But maybe most importantly, maybe the thing has allowed us to grow and achieve the very lofty goals we have set for ourselves over the past 10 years, we decided to place a major emphasis on serving our current members – focusing on the people who have already made the decision to join our credit union,” she said. “There has been no growth strategy more potent.”
Robinson also explained how they were able to responsibly expand Ironworkers USA’s field of membership, and how despite the growth, the credit union will not allow the mission to change.
“Our goal of serving ironworkers, who still desperately need our financial support, hasn’t changed. We’ll simply continue doing what we set out to do 10 years ago: Double down on our strategic focus and remind ourselves that we can serve this group better than anyone else,” she wrote.