Jim Nussle

Innovation key to the credit union difference

Rock Stars demonstrate a steadfast dedication to members and a focus on people over profit.

October 6, 2021

There are a few things that haven’t changed about credit unions since they were founded.

There’s the steadfast dedication to members, democratic nature, and focus on people over profit.

There’s also a legacy of innovation. The very idea of a credit union was innovative at one time.

You mean community members can pool their resources to help each other rather than relying on the big banks?

What a concept.

More than 120 million people have chosen credit unions because that innovative spirit continues to this day.

It’s there in good times, when credit unions help members reach their goals and achieve financial well-being. 

It’s there in the bad times as well, when credit unions serve as financial first responders, meeting individual needs as they arise. 

Over the past two years, credit unions have responded to shutdowns and a pandemic in exactly the ways their members needed. We can do this because of our innovative spirit and a culture that allows it to thrive.

Innovation isn’t necessarily a system-wide, multi-year transformation. It also occurs when a member walks into their credit union and someone asks, “How can I help you today?”

The answer to that question differs at every branch and every region, and for every member. But credit unions continue to find those answers.

‘We need to actively cultivate innovation, challenge ourselves, and always look ahead.’

Just as important is fostering an environment where innovation can flourish. That means creating a space where people are empowered to think, test ideas, and even fail.

We can’t afford to wait for a lightbulb of inspiration to wake us up in the middle of the night. Instead, we need to actively cultivate innovation, challenge ourselves, and always look ahead. 

Twenty years ago, most of us couldn’t fathom something like a smartphone. Now it’s at the center of how we consume information and manage our lives. 

How will your members access their money, make payments, and work toward their dreams in 10 years, and how can we prepare ourselves today? 

Credit unions have been innovators since their inception. More than 80 years of innovation doesn’t happen without generations of believers in the credit union difference. 

The people you’ll read about in this year’s Credit Union Rock Star campaign, sponsored by Fiserv, carry that legacy today. They’re innovators, they’re leaders—they’re the movement’s Rock Stars.

They see how to make things better and take the steps to do it, improving members’ financial well-being and advancing the communities they serve. 

I hope you’ll be inspired by their dedication to the credit union difference. I know I am.

JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of Credit Union National Association.