Dealing with Interchange: Over the Horizon or Over The Rainbow

One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to look out over the horizon and detect threats and opportunities, and then translate the vision into action for the organization.  This is the essence of strategic planning, and stands in firm opposition to the ‘hope and pray’ school of thought, which is to let competitors and exogenous variables dictate your future, and hope for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to solve your problems. Trust me, clicking your heels three times isn’t likely to yield a winning strategy! 🙂

Strategic planning outlines the handful of choices that drive the subsequent decisions and actions of the company, and which have the greatest impact on whether objectives will be achieved.  Let me start with a definition of strategy, so we’re all on the same page.

Strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long-term towards achieving its objectives; which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfill stakeholder expectations.

That’s a mouthful – so let’s break it down into the specific questions that strategic planning answers-

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3 strategies for redesigning your credit union checking accounts

If you are an executive at a credit union, the odds are overwhelming that you’ve been debating whether to continue free checking accounts in the wake of recent legislative and regulatory developments. And if you do decide to charge for checking, what fee(s) make sense, who to charge it to (and who not to), whether to tier it based on total profitability of a member, what the competition is going to do, and so on.

Whew – that’s a lot to think about, but let’s not forget the popular saying – with every challenge comes opportunity. And with these challenges, credit unions are faced with a choice: Stay with the status quo or innovate. Let me help you with that decision – INNOVATE. 🙂

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Finding the next generation of credit union leaders – 5 Key Traits

Great article on leadership in the 4-17-11 Sunday New York Times – adapted from “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed.”

The key question asked by the article – out of a pool of 100 people with similar attributes, what are the leadership characteristics that are essential for success – success for the individual and success for the organization? As credit unions turn over a major portion of their leadership over the next decade, finding executives with these characteristics becomes essential as we seek the next generation of leaders.

There are five, and they are all traits that can be developed (as opposed to being innate) –

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Make insurance a permanent ‘aisle’ in your branches

Guest post by Jeff Chesky, President & CEO, Insuritas

Strategies for selling insurance to credit union members are undergoing a radical transformation. Regulatory reforms are limiting or eliminating traditional sources of fee income, and that’s placing additional pressure on income sources like insurance sales to fill the gap and help with recapitalization efforts. Some credit unions are taking a hard look at insurance as a critical fee-income generator, reengineering their processes for selling insurance to members. Credit union executives won’t be able to avoid comprehensive insurance product sales much longer.

Today, a credit union’s insurance programs are often treated as a redheaded stepchild to its core businesses of deposit gathering, loan-making and investment advisory services. A credit union may have an AD&D mail campaign, GAP insurance, even term life. Some credit unions think the best strategy for generating more income from insurance is to squeeze better margins out of their current partners. Although adding a little to the bottom line, that strategy is short sighted. The nation’s leading credit unions are drastically expanding the insurance products they offer to members — creating a one-stop shopping experience for all of their members’ insurance needs.

With current sources of fee income increasingly constrained, pressure on net interest margins proving relentless and competitive incursions into your membership a daily challenge, it’s no longer a matter of if your credit union will provide a comprehensive insurance agency solution for your members but when.

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7 strategies to help members that are five years from retirement (or so they thought…)

Let me start this post by saying that although I am way way too many years away from my own retirement, I still feel very much connected to those who are soon to be retirees. I too dream of my retirement – of those carefree days of leisurely lunches with the ladies, spontaneous travel and actually participating in the painting hobby I claim to have (but, then I remember I’m about 40 years away from that – or more! – and snap back into reality). But I do wonder what it would  feel like to be just 5 years from retirement bliss and then suddenly have to doubt that I can afford it? I can definitely feel for those worried pre-retirees and you should too, because they are members at your credit union.

Did you know nearly 2 in 3 (64%) of Americans believe that realistically they won’t ever be able to stop working and retire? (As reported in a StrategyOne Survey). That’s depressing. 🙁 And 10,000 baby boomers in the U.S. are turning 60 each day, on average! Wow – if that’s not an obvious sign that your credit union help is needed, I don’t know what is.

The market downturn has indeed affected us all. And when you’re five years from retirement and your stocks plummet, your 401(k) takes the biggest dip you’ve ever seen and you have lost the excitement you used to get when crossing off those days from your retirement countdown calendar—where do you turn to keep your retirement dreams alive? Is there a way to hang on to your plan of lounging on every beach around the world before you kick the bucket?

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