Online Resources Create Board Leaders

CU trainers need to be directors’ navigators.

October 14, 2012

Your board of directors is at the center of the credit union difference. Unlike other financial institutions, credit union board members are elected by members of the credit union and serve as volunteers. This ensures the credit union’s mission and decisions reflect the values of its members.

Accurate representation is only the first step. To be an effective board member, individuals must meet a level of financial literacy relative to the size and complexity of the credit unions they serve.

Because the future direction and vision of the credit union relies heavily on the board’s judgment, board members must have a sufficient working knowledge of every activity their credit union engages in.

However, the typical credit union board member has many demands outside of the credit union, including families, careers, and community commitments. This makes gaining the financial knowledge and leadership needed to fulfill their commitment to the credit union a daunting task.

But advances in technology are making it easier for board members to become the expert leaders their credit unions need them to be.

Board members don’t have the luxury of a normal schedule. This can make traditional, face-to-face training a tall order.

However, with the rise of online self-study courses board members can now get the educational updates they need at times that fit their schedules.

Online courses and e-books cover an array of board training topics from history and philosophy to NCUA financial literacy regulations. Online training also grants board members the opportunity to earn board-specific certificates, making it easy for them to showcase their financial qualifications to the full board, CEO, and members.

With time being such a concern, scheduling board meetings can prove to be a logistical nightmare. However, credit unions are turning to alternate online solutions that allow board members to connect with one another without being in the same location.

With virtual networks and discussion forums, credit union board members can talk, share materials securely, and find the answers they need to perform their board duties effectively. Virtual networks can solve immediate concerns and help address important questions board members may not even know they had.

In addition, online conversions of paper materials, such as eBooks and white papers, have made it easier for board members to bring their training with them everywhere.

Information that used to be found only in hardcover books can now be found on eReaders, making board training a much lighter and sleeker affair. The added convenience has prompted more board members to have their training materials with them at all times, ready for the unexpected opening in the day to be used.

This alone has created a wealth of training opportunities that did not exist just five years prior. The online editions have also made spreading information faster, giving board members pertinent updates in real-time.

While the rapid advancements in technology have made sharing and dispersing information easier than ever before, the results have created some unforeseen complications.

Before the Internet revolution, information was distributed to the board mainly via packets from the CEO, signaling clearly what information was important. But with the autonomy of the digital age, knowing what information to focus on became more difficult. With the new surplus of available information, expectations of board members’ expertise grew.

“Today, you could spend all day, every day, reading about credit unions and the economic environment and still find more topics you need to brush up on,” says Kevin Smith, CUNA’s director of volunteer education. “Required reading never ends. Credit union trainers need to be their board’s navigators, sifting through the mountain of credit union information to find the sources that matter.”

MARLO FOLTZ is CUNA’s director of blended learning.