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Canada·Careers·Change·Creativity·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·New Release·Professional Development·Technology

Strategic Challenge 2015: What Will You Stop Doing?

Think back to the last adult conversation you had. I’m guessing it went something like this:

“Hi there. How are you?”

“I’m well. You?”

“I’m doing well. But so busy. I had three meetings today. The examiners were in last month and I’m working on responses to two findings. We are considering a core conversion and I’ve been working on committees to move that project forward. I forgot my son had a science project due, so I was up until 2 AM working on his project last night and my father is coming into town this weekend, so as soon as we are done with this meeting, I have to rush home to make sure the house is in order. Hang on, I’m getting a text from my husband.”

Human beings are busier than ever. Here are eight things you might not know about busyness in America.

Considering how busy we are, as we head into the credit union industry’s peak “strategic planning” season, credit unions across North America might be overwhelmed with the many important strategic questions that are under consideration:

  • What is our “why?”
  • Is our vision aggressive enough for the next 3 years?
  • What do our members and potential members need and want?
  • How will we attract the next generation of members?
  • How will we make using the credit union easier than ever?
  • What will the branch of the future look like and what purpose will it serve?
  • What will our digital strategy be in this omni-channel world and how will we meet our members where they are?
  • What will our payment strategy be?
  • How will we retain and attract top talent and what is our succession plan?
  • How will we integrate innovation into our daily lives?

Whew. Those are just some of the many questions credit union executives and boards are considering. This business of strategizing to create the best credit union to serve our members into the future is both exciting and challenging. It sure keeps us busy! Of course, asking the right questions is only the start. Developing the answers to those questions, prioritizing strategies and ultimately implementing new ideas all while continuing to improve the financial situation of our members takes determination, grit and the balance between pausing to strategize and relentlessly executing.

As we balance these strategic questions and the busyness we all feel, one question I’d invite credit union executives and boards to consider during the strategy sessions this fall is this: what will we stop doing? It might be the hardest question of all. We want so much to be all things to all members and potential members. We want to take on more so that we can differentiate ourselves in the marketplace and dominate the competition. However, there is only so much time in everyday. Having spent 14 years in three different credit unions, I know how many hats the average credit union team member is wearing. If you’ve come up with an exceptional strategic plan with great new ideas this year, challenge your team to come up at least three things that you’ll stop doing.

Here are a few suggestions to consider*:

  • Offering paper statements for free
  • Offering paper brochures
  • Mailing receipts
  • Requiring duplicate entry of information on membership applications and loan applications
  • Requiring members to repeat information when they are transferred
  • Running any report that hasn’t been read in the last six months
  • Kicking off new projects that don’t have a direct link to your strategy
  • Mailing newsletters
  • Blocking social media access
  • Holding meetings on Fridays

This is a challenge that I’ll take with you. I’m very bad at saying no and it’s unusual for me to stop doing things. I just keep adding on and wishing that someone would add an eighth day to our week. So, I’ll join you. Let’s touch base in six months and see how we’ve done.

What could your credit union stop doing? I’d love to hear your ideas.

*Disclaimer: These are only ideas and every credit union should investigate all new endeavors including the regulatory and compliance considerations before making changes to current practices.

Canada·Collaboration·Gen Y·Leadership

Credit Union Young Leader Avengers

“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could…” – Nick Fury, The Avengers.

Last year, the Cooperative Trust (US), Abacus Emerging Leaders (Australia), and Servus Young Leaders Network (Canada) developed an informal partnership with a goal of collaborating to make a difference in the world wide credit union movement.  Along the way, we’ve been able to add James Marshall, the 007 of credit union young leaders in Great Britain, to our joint venture.

Our first project was to create a short video to bring greater awareness and understanding to the awesomeness that is each of our national credit union systems.

While I don’t know exactly where our partnership will go in the future, I do know one thing.  Individually we have all done phenomenal work to make the credit union in our countries a better place for our staff, our members, and our communities.  If we are willing to commit to working together, as a worldwide unified group of credit union young leaders, we will truly change this world through people helping people.

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” —Ryunosuke Satoro

So please, grab your popcorn, make sure your beverage of choice is filled to the brim, and get to know a little bit more about credit unions in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.  Enjoy!!!

The Cooperative Trust – USA

James Marshall – Great Britain

Servus Young Leaders Network – Canada

Abacus AM Institute Emerging Leaders – Australia

Canada·Careers·Leadership·Professional Development

Leadership Development Whitepaper

Over the past year, I have had the privilege of working with Matt Weidler through the development of his white paper entitled “Young Professional Leadership and Career Development in North American Credit Unions”. Matt’s passion and dedication to the development of the next generation of credit union leaders have been, and continue to be a great inspiration to me, and I am confident that they will be clear to any individual who reads this paper.

Every organization, no matter how big or small, must determine how it can identify and develop high performing employees so that they can take on roles of greater leadership and responsibility.  As Frank Detert states in the forward to this white paper:

“Thus, just as it would seem irresponsible for an organization to hope its strategy or business systems would develop themselves without serious attention and investment from top management, it should also seem irresponsible to do relatively little to develop the organization’s future leaders.  Indeed, for this reason, many of the world’s most successful organizations devote entire staffs, buildings, and millions of dollars annually to internal leadership development. Apple University, GE’s Leadership Development Center, and Infosys’s Leadership Institute are prominent examples of how seriously some of the world’s great companies take this process.”

However, creating and running an effective leadership program can be a huge challenge for credit unions.  Unlike Apple and GE, credit unions simply do not have millions of dollars to spend on leadership development.  At the same time, credit unions cannot afford to ignore the issue of leadership development.  High performing and capable employees will be able to find opportunities, either within a credit union or a new organization.  Therefore, credit unions must be able to give these employees the opportunities they deserve or risk losing them to organizations that will give them more opportunities.

This white paper shows three examples of credit unions who have established effective leadership development programs through three very different methods.  It then outlines a simple and practical framework for developing a program uniquely suited to each organization’s particular needs.

I look forward to seeing how this paper and the examples within, guide others who are similarly inspired to create an effective leadership development program within their organizations.


Welcome to the Wise

We’ve mostly limited bringing new people onto our site (with the exception of Crash events), but we recently broke the rules and brought on a new type of member: mentor, Tim McAlpine.

You probably know Tim as the credit union advocate best known for developing the Young & Free program that credit unions from around North America are using to connect with new Generation Y members. He is also the driving force behind CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec competition and is a co-founder of the CU Water Cooler. He believes that credit unions and the credit union movement need to work harder to prove that there is a difference and that it matters. Hi company, Currency Marketing is located in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.

We struck a goldmine with Tim, who has agreed (for free!) to help us out by sharing his expertise and being our first official mentor to the overall Trust community.

When we asked Tim to consider joining the Trust as our first ever mentor, he said:

I am thrilled and slightly conflicted about being selected as a Cooperative Trust mentor. Thrilled because I have been a huge fan of this community and what it stands for. Conflicted because mentor sounds like old person!  I look forward to chiming in with my thoughts and opinions.

Tim – we sure are happy you agreed and are looking forward to hearing what you have to share from your 20 years of experience – thanks again for being our a part of our family!

Canada·Leadership·Professional Development

Selte Wins Next Top Credit Union Exec Competition

We’ve known Devin Selte as a crazy curly haired Canadian and a man who doesn’t just preach about empowering young professionals, but lives it each day.  Devin’s a 32 year old Senior Relationship Manager – Team Lead at Servus Credit Union in Alberta, Canada and now has a new title to add to his resume: 2011 Next Top Credit Union Executive.

Devin was our first Crash member from Canada and introduced us to our Collider winner: Robert Christiansen.  Even before he became a member of the Crash community, we admired him from afar.  If for some reason, his name doesn’t ring a bell, you may want to check out a few of his recent accomplishments and things that keep him busy:

Here’s a glimpse of Devin’s project, which supports a young leaders program at his credit union:

If you’re a new fan, be sure to keep an eye on Devin, as he is already making waves.

We’re so proud of you, Devo!


And the winning Collider prototype is…

Ladies and gentlemen…we have ourselves a winner!  After a tough two week experience which includes reviewing each prototype submission and a phone call with each finalist, the judges have selected The Collider winner:

Congratulations to Robert Christiansen and the Credit Union Home Buyer’s Plan!


The Credit Union Home Buyer’s Plan is a tool.  From the member’s perspective, it’s a tool that will help member’s save for their down payment to purchase their first home.  In a time where there are very few incentives for saving, the Credit Union Home Buyers Plan may be quite attractive.

From the Credit Union’s perspective, it’s a tool that will help grow a credit union’s deposit portfolio and/or non-interest-revenue portfolio; depending on if the underlying assets are guaranteed (like a Guaranteed Investment Certificate or Savings Account) or non-guaranteed (like a mutual fund, which would generate fee or trailer based income).

Some of the elements within this program are:

  • Allows consumers to select investment options for their savings (as well as the matched portion from the credit union)
  • Requires consumers to use the savings (and matched portion) strictly for purchasing a home (and revoking funds that are not)
  • Requires in-branch deposits to ensure conversations take place with a financial advisor


While our Collider participants sought to find a solution to our challenge, our judges were not only interested in seeing new, fresh ideas brought to the table, but equally important was outside feedback from the field.  Robert proved his innovative idea would work by showing:

How it was different from what’s around:

How it could motivate members:

How it could increase lending portfolios:


Now that Robert was convinced this idea could work, he moved forward with settling on some of the logistical to-dos.

What would marketing pieces look like?

What should be included in the banking system?

Ideally, it would be great if information regarding the applicant’s post-secondary schooling appeared on their personal member screen.  The power in this program is that it must be set up and administered in-branch; that is, at least once a year, a credit union could guarantee that they would get their trained financial professionals to sit down with these member’s and have a meaningful conversation about budgeting, saving and creating a customized financial plan.  This may seem like a minor detail, but I would suggest that this is the most crucial aspect of the program.

What would an internal form look like for the member?

Outside of  the typical information requested, slight modifications would be put into place to also request details on the member’s secondary education as well as housing-related budgets.  Obtaining this info would assist the Financial Advisor, assigned to the member, to make recommendations on their specific saving plan.


After the judges had reviewed everything Robert had put together for his prototype, they commented, saying:

The next time I have a problem, I’m calling you….you did a great job of articulating the problem. (Denise)

It seems like what you’re proposing is a true partnership between lender and borrower in which both are trying to help each other meet their goals. (Matt)

Field work is key in this stage and you did a commendable job getting these data. (George)

You do a good job of identifying the problem and potential solution from a member perspective.(Bob)

You did a great job bringing your concept to life. I have liked this product since your original introduction and think this could be great for potential home buyers and a really great way to differentiate credit unions. (Patty)

The Big (Bright) Prize

Robert will bring his idea to the big.bright.minds stage, a gathering of some of credit union land’s top thinkers, held this year in Kansas City, Missouri. In addition, Filene will equip Robert with a dedicated implementation team to launch his idea into the marketplace.

Calling Early-Adopters

Are you interested in being among the first to bring the Credit Union Home Buyer’s Plan – or any of the other prototypes – to your credit union? Let us know by clicking here and filling out contact form.

Way to go, Robert!

And thanks again to everyone who participated, especially to the other finalists: Bill Clancy, Amanda Thomas, Matt Vance, Sean Capaloff-Jones, and Lisa Brown.

Stay tuned for updates on Rob and the team’s progress!


Canada changed their hundies

Canada unveiled it’s new $100 bills this week. Like Kenny Rogers’ face, they’re each made with a single piece of plastic.

And that through-the-looking-glass style hidden numbers trick is pretty cool too. Well played, Canadians.

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