Great Strategy and Great Wine

Originally posted on

No, this is not a post about how strategic discussions can be improved with fine wine, although that is probably true, and it would be fun to test the hypothesis. This post is about the best of both worlds, and combining a vocation with an avocation.

I love my job, which often involves thinking strategically on behalf of credit unions and with our Partners, and have also become a fan of wine, in particular California Cabernet. My chance to blend the two and share with all of you as well is coming at the NAFCU CEOs and Senior Executives Conference (Sonoma, CA, April 24–26, 2013).

NAFCU Services sponsors a welcome reception every year at this Conference. Given that we are in wine country, we wanted to do something special that would be a more interactive and interesting experience than just having house wines for a “typical” reception. We’ve all been to plenty of them, where you grab an anonymous glass of non-descript wine and look for the next hors d’oeuvres tray.

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Secrets of the Online Retailers, and What It Means for Credit Unions

Originally posted on

Three simple questions:

  1. Do you want your website to actively drive revenue growth, or to simply be an easy place for Members to read about your solutions, check balances, pay bills and find branches?
  2. Does your website engage members and generate revenue by using cutting edge web strategies like and do?
  3. If not, why not?

The first generation of business websites were what we like to euphemistically (and somewhat derisively) call ‘brochureware’ – companies spent a fortune on very talented graphic designers to put up web versions of their static brochures. Even though they sometimes built in animation or videos, the level of interactivity available to a visitor was pretty much the same as the level found when watching TV.

With interaction at best minimal, you still had to call or visit in person to actually buy something. Part of this represented technology limitations in the browser platform, but some of it was a lack of vision and established business models to point the way.

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Credit Union Industry Experts: What’s in Store for 2013

Originally posted on

I like to say that one of a visionary leader’s most important functions is seeing over the horizon and recognizing opportunities and threats before anyone else does, and then shaping the strategy and tactics of the organization accordingly.

So for our year-end blog post I asked our Preferred Partners to tell us what they see coming over the horizon, from their perspective, that credit union executives need to be focused on and/or prepared for as we head into 2013. Looking back a year, I see some common themes—revenue issues, economic uncertainty, regulatory uncertainty, and political uncertainty. From that perspective, not much has changed as we look forward to 2013. Here is what a few of them said:

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Did You Know That Credit Unions Are Less Responsive Than Banks When It Comes to Indirect Auto Loans?

Credit unions are member-focused and excel at being more responsive than banks, right? Commitment to service is a critical attribute of the credit union brand, and represents a key differentiator versus banks. Not so fast-at least when it comes to indirect lending programs. A recent survey of auto dealers from Automotive News showed that credit unions are the slowest in responding to lending inquiries.

Who did the survey show is the fastest to respond to indirect lending inquiries among the financial institutions? All banks-Ally, Chase, and Capital One. While you might argue that their national brands and national footprint garnered them enough responses to rank as the top three, this is not the only nugget gleaned from this survey.

When asked who were the slowest, credit unions were specifically cited by 26% of the respondents as being slow to respond. For those of you ‘glass-is-half-full’ readers, yes, this does mean that 74% did not specifically cite credit unions as slow. But when viewed in conjunction with the fact that credit unions were not singled out anywhere on the ‘fastest’ list, it is at least cause for a renewed focus.

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How Do You Create A High Performance Culture?

Originally published on

Lots of people find strategy discussions the most difficult part of planning – when you get deep into the weeds, it can be hard to tell the difference between a strategy, a tactic, a mission, a goal and an objective, and where exactly is the dividing line between short-, medium- and long-term anyway?

If strategy is hard, then developing and implementing a high performance corporate culture that is aligned with your strategy and will deliver on all of its promise is like climbing Mt. Everest. Getting culture right – right for you, right for your employees, right for your members – makes a huge difference in your ability to execute to plan.

Culture and high-performing workplaces are top-of-mind this week because I came across a fascinating presentation on the role culture plays at Netflix in ‘achieving excellence’ — if you have not seen it yet I highly recommend it (available on Slideshare – download requires a free registration).

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