Credit Unions Need to Keep Abreast of Member Needs and Build a Member Centric Culture

Credit Unions were once known as the “small man’s bank” and the concept of sharing a common bond underscored member shared common experiences, needs and aspirations that allowed them to own and operate a credit union. Indeed, they would share among themselves these experiences and aspirations and build the credit union as the vehicle to take them there. So the operations of their credit unions were guided by who members were and who they wanted to be!

Credit Union growth in membership from hundreds to hundreds of thousands no longer allows easily for the alignment of credit union operations to member experiences, needs and aspirations.

Yet as credit unions we must remain member-centric if we are to retain our ethos and ultimately our existence.

A Data-Driven Approach

Critical to this strategy would be turning to a data-driven approach in order to holistically understand our members and their behaviour. Such insight will go far in fine tuning and personalizing our financial and member development offerings. We need valuable data on each member!

Such data should include financial goals and aspirations; communication channel preference, geographical location, bill payment behaviour and changes in life happenings deduced using social media insight.

Staying with or setting the trends

Graphic design, web design and marketing material all continuously change. With the upcoming generations being a demographic we need to engage, we must appeal to their palate. Research we have already conducted on the millennial demographic, has shown us that they are quite savvy when it comes to identifying which organisations are on the cutting edge of design and which are stuck in the past.

Using stylish interfaces, including advertisements and email marketing, will not only give us that ‘trend setter’ image, but it will also play a pivotal role in boosting the movement’s credibility.

Expand our Remit as Educators

Hovering over the financial services sector is always the trust issue. This can be effectively addressed through member education and empowering them with relevant information. This will also boost credibility throughout our organisational structures.

On website links for instance, can include informative literature which addresses member concerns about say, digital security, while simultaneously educating them on the topic.

Making these factors part of strategic planning, can prove to be critical in bridging the gap created by recent disruptions and technological advancements.

Your culture and its impact on members

All our operations, decisions and values should be focused on enabling our members to meet their needs and aspirations. We need to develop a Member Centric Culture, one which we can monitor and evaluate using objective criteria and member feedback. While it can prove to be challenging, we must devise ways and means to makes these criteria quantifiable so that it can be measured and evaluated and free of manipulation and subjective interpretation.

We at the CFF possess the capacity to work with our member credit unions to get it right!

Here are some considerations in determining the extent to which your Credit Union is fostering a member centric culture:

1. The extent to which culture aligns with strategy

As people’s organisations, we must be satisfied that our goals and strategies enhance the quality of our relationships with our members, instead of quantity. For example, we need to be satisfied that our existing culture is pivoted on training programs where all new members of staff whether they are CEO’s with MBA’s or those at entry level are trained to appreciate that members own and have built the organisations which employ them. Members must also be on boarded to appreciate their rights as owners and yet the need for respectful relationships with staff. Members must be part of on-going member service feedback. If internal practices contradicts this, then the treatment of your members will be similar.

2. Who is setting the tone for organization culture?

The key aspects of culture must be continuously led and manifested by the Board and CEO. Their leadership will require the backing from HR management particularly in terms of performance measurement and standards which directly supports a member centric culture. Also, mechanisms must be put in place to realign an inappropriate culture, i.e. one which does not serve your membership.

3. Do you take into account member needs in your hiring practices?

Staff should be concerned and responsive to member needs. In determining employee ‘best fit’, we need to focus on more than operational skills or ability to achieve immediate tasks. Rather we should assess prospective employees and groom existing employees’ willingness to get to know and understand member needs.

This should include putting mechanisms in place to ensure they are made aware of helpful products. As long-term employees retire or exit the industry, it would be especially critical here that the newcomers help lead a transition from order-taking, to a consultative, sales and service approach.

This brings us to the hiring process. During this process, you should be asking the candidate about their values, their intentions or even their willingness to complete a trial project. Their answers may well indicate, not only their capabilities, but their compatibility with members of varying demographics.

4. Is your culture felt organisational-wide?

Your Credit Union essentially exists to either fill members’ needs and/or solve their problems and hence it is crucial that everyone feels they’re a participant in the culture.

We should view culture as being shaped by both daily and occasional events. These events may be sparked by one person proposing an idea, someone else to authorize it and another to execute it. The point here, is that in order to have a member-focused mind-set, everyone should have a participatory role.