CUinDenver: Keys to collaborative success

July 16, 2015

DENVER (7/16/15)--Credit unions around the world use collaboration to find common ground and share resources to explore new or more cost-efficient ways to offer members exceptional service and experience.

At a Wednesday breakout session at CUNA’s America’s Credit Union Conference and the World Credit Union Conference, international experts on the topic shared information on what an exceptional business practice collaboration can be, but also how challenging it can be to experience the full value it offers.

The panel was moderated by Manfred Dasenbrock, a member of World Council of Credit Unions' board of directors, who represents the Brazilian credit union movement as a delegate from Confederação Interestadual das Cooperativas Ligadas ao SICREDI (SICREDI).

Panelists were:

  • Luis Antonio Salazar Calderón, a credit union manager in Guatemala who also has held national positions as president of the National Federation of Credit Unions and president of the National Institute of Credit Unions;
  • Marcos Schwingel, manager of Corporate Education Foundation at SICREDI and an active member in the cooperative moment for more than 20 years;
  • Mike Leonard, president/CEO of Atlantic Central and League Savings and Mortgage Co., the trade association and financial intermediary for 53 credit unions in the four provinces in Atlantic Canada; and
  • Randy Karnes, CEO of CU*Answers, a credit union service organization (CUSO) that provides core processing, consulting, management and technology services.

The presentations by the diverse panel of experts underscored an observation made frequently during this international conference: the attendees, who hail from all over the world, have 80% in common, and only 20% in differences.

As moderator Dasenbrock put it, “Our movement is built on cooperation and collaboration.”

Some of the key observations offered by Leonard about collaborating included advice to:

  • Create shared service platforms to improve the ability to compete;
  • Share branding and branding messages as much as possible to contain costs and increase brand familiarity;
  • Connect with national partners, when available, to increase volume and address scale; and
  • Leverage regional marketing programs to spread the credit union message.

CUSO expert Karnes noted that collaboration takes integrity and requires an individual to override any instinct of self-interest to serve a greater goal. In a collaborative effort, he said, it is key to remember that parties are not subsidizing each other, they are moving forward together “shoulder to shoulder.” And collaborative partners must all be considered equals even if they cannot all contribute equally.

Guatemala’s Calderón described collaboration as a “joint activity with the goal of achieving a common objective. This is fundamental because everyone has inherent in their nature the principal of cooperation.”

And Canada’s Leonard shared with participants his 11 keys to collaborative success in shared services. They are:

  • Develop a shared vision;
  • Remember collaboration is not consensus;
  • Have a decision-making model;
  • Promote quantifiable return on investment;
  • Reduce self-interest, always think “members first;”
  • Build credibility with outside expertise;
  • Ensure effective two-way communication;
  • Change management strategies to help staff;
  • Connect actions to strategies to show progress;
  • Celebrate success and don’t fear the failures; and
  • Understand what needs to be controlled and what doesn’t, and get third-party help for the latter.

For more highlights from the conference, click here.