Author Archive

Member Business Lending in the Spotlight

Posted by on Friday, 9 March, 2012

Open for business?

Member Business Lending (MBL) is a topic that continues to generate a lot of buzz. Considering our current economic state, why are MBLs getting so much attention? Because they are one of the fastest-growing segments of credit union loan portfolios,  with an average loan growth rate of 4%*. Some credit unions are reporting even higher rates. CUNA’s News Now recently reported that in 2011, Michigan credit unions increased their MBLs  by 21.7%!

Other statistics to note:

  • The number of credit unions offering MBLs: 2,233
  • Average size of  credit union MBLs: $219,120

“While we know that MBLs may not be for every credit union, CUNA’s goal is to provide the most comprehensive information possible to help credit unions make an educated decision on whether to offer these services,” says Doug Benzine, Vice President of CUNA’s Advisory Services. To that end, we present a number of resources for credit unions currently offering or considering adding MBLs to their portfolio including (but not limited to):

1. Member Business Lending Resources;

2. CUNA’s Business Lending Institutes: Fundamentals, Credit Analysis and Advanced Credit Analysis; and

3. Consulting services.

Currently the cap on MBLs is 12.25% of a credit union’s total assets. As the national trade association, CUNA is advocating Congress to enact legislation which would  increase the  cap to 27.5% for well-capitalized credit unions.

Participate NOW in our Call to Action to increase the MBL cap, by contacting your  state representatives and urging them to include Small Business Lending Enhancement Act in the small business jobs bill.

*Source: FDIC, NCUA and CUNA E&S

Big Time Thursdays: Switching Perspectives

Posted by on Thursday, 14 April, 2011

“When You’re Finished Changing, You’re Finished.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Courtesy of David Reece

Say the word “change” and you are bound to get a strong reaction from people.  Whether you love change or hate it, it is one of the only true constants in life. Not only are we changing as individuals on a daily basis, we are changing the way we socialize and the way we conduct business in the 21st century.

Technology is instrumental in many of the changes occurring in our personal and professional lives. It is changing the way we provide account information to our members, the way we capture their attention and they ways in which they interact with the credit union.

Today members have their paychecks automatically deposited and their bills automatically debited. They log on to a web branch from their iPhones to check their balances and transfer funds. If we are doing a good job in providing them the services they need in a timely, courteous and friendly manner, they may even “like” us on Facebook.

While some of us embrace all of this change wholeheartedly, others would like nothing more than to go back to “the way things used to be.”   In their new book,  Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Dan and Chip Heath investigate the reasons people often fear change and how to go about making the hard changes in life a little easier to manage.  Often we become focused on all the things that are wrong and “analysis paralysis” kicks in. We know that a change must occur, but we are unable to take the appropriate steps to make it happen.

To succeed in changing, the Heaths propose that, “We must look for bright spots — the first signs that things are working. We need to ask ourselves a question that sounds simple but is, in fact, deeply unnatural: What’s working and how can we do more of it?”

This seemingly simple “switch” in perspective has big implications, as the anecdotes included in the book illustrate. Whether you are attempting to make a personal change, or a change within your organization, this is an insightful, entertaining and educational book to add to your collection.

In June Dan Heath will keynote America’s Credit Union Conference in San Antonio where he will share more insights on this “switch” in perspective and how it relates to credit unions.

BIG TIME Thursday CONTEST: We want to know: How have you successfully implemented change at your credit union? What is working at your credit union and how are you finding ways to do more of it? Answer this question in a comment below and we’ll do a random drawing on April 21st of all commenters to give away a copy of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, and a $10 donation to a charity of the winner’s choosing through (  If a choice is not provided within three months, the donation will go to the default charity (currently the Red Cross – for Japan Earthquake Relief).

UPDATE (04/21): This contest has ended – congratulations to our winner, Stephanie from NRL Federal Credit Union. She won a copy of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, and a $10 donation to a charity of the winner’s choosing through (  If a choice is not provided within three months, the donation will go to the default charity (currently the Red Cross – for Japan Earthquake Relief). THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED!

CONTEST DETAILS: Contest begins today and ends on Wednesday, April 20th at 11:59PM (ct). No purchase necessary to win.  Make sure you leave an email address where you can be contacted.  The winner will be notified via e-mail and will also be announced on the blog.  Multiple comments are allowed as long as you have a valid idea in each comment. (No duplicate comments) The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants received.  Void where prohibited.

This competition is offered by Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and is open to anyone who comments on this post and is at least 18 years of age. Employees of CUNA and family members of such employees are not eligible to enter.

CUNA shall not have any liability for any malfunction of or damage to the prize. The award winner may be responsible for applicable state or federal taxes on the value of the contest prize.

Do More to Grow Membership

Posted by on Monday, 3 January, 2011

Growing membership is critical to all credit unions; after all membership growth keeps credit unions in business. While traditional ad campaigns help credit unions build name recognition and establish their brand, sponsorship and participation in community events and charitable activities can go a long way towards membership growth.

One credit union that has caught our team’s attention in recent months is Summit Credit Union. Their innovative approach to Do More by delivering “Random acts of kindness in their communities through do-good “summits,” has inspired all of us.

Check out videos from two of their recent events: 

Pretty awesome, huh?  Recently, I had the pleasure of asking Rebecca Gerothanas, the Senior VP of Marketing at Summit, a number of questions about Do More.  

How did the Do More campaign originate?

RG – We are always looking for non-traditional, innovative ways to engage with members and the community. About 18 months ago one of our team members saw a video by a group called Improv Everywhere. It prompted a few of us to wonder: what if we did something like that but our purpose was to do good for the community, to get members and employees involved? We spent some time talking about what that would look like and that is how our Do More campaign came to life.

How did you solicit employee involvement?

RG – The idea and the development originally formed within the marketing department, however we wanted the whole credit union to be involved (not just marketing).  We asked employees who were interested in being involved to fill out a short, fun survey in the spirit of “doing good for others”. We got a few dozen responses, and from there we randomly chose eight employees to join the team. Sometimes the whole team is involved in planning and executing events and sometimes just a few.

How do you come up with ideas?

RG –We hold brainstorming sessions. People on the team share ideas that they think:

  • Are unique and different;
  • Have a “feel good” twist;
  • Will get people talking; and
  • Help the community understand Summit’s brand.

Although events are planned on our end, we want them to feel spontaneous to our audience. We want to surprise and excite people!

How do you measure success?

RG – We ask ourselves: How engaged are people at the events? What is the general feeling? What kinds of connections were made?  Is there member and marketplace buzz and chatter? Are we seeing our actions translate to member growth? Website traffic? Traffic on our Facebook page? Is the local press covering stories on our events? Recently the Wisconsin State Journal did a profile of non-traditional marketing tactics and we were featured in that. We hope to have more scientific data in the future, but for now we are considering the buzz factor.

What has the feedback from members/the community been so far?

RG – We have received thank you notes and cards in the mail, comments on the phone and in person. Our members tell us that they see what we are doing and they like being a part of it.

Do you have any advice for other credit unions seeking to make a difference in their community?

RG – These things don’t have to cost a lot of money. We are very cognizant of the expense and we try to do things that don’t cost a lot of money (less than $500 a month). Another critical element is that we are engaging people in a REAL and genuine way. We aren’t just telling them what we can do; we are showing them what we can do. We are using social media to help people experience the credit union difference, and encouraging them to want to be a part of that difference.

What’s in Your “Thank Bank?”

Posted by on Wednesday, 24 November, 2010

Gratitude by kateausburn

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ”                           ~William Arthur Ward

Like you, I look forward to the delicious food and the many festivities of the season, to the gatherings and the rituals that signal the holidays are upon us. I look forward to seeing aunts and uncles, cousins and their children; to catching up with everyone, even if just for a few hours.

One of the things I look forward to the most is a tradition started by my mother many years back. Before settling down to the main feast, we go around the room and answer the question “What are you grateful for?”  I will admit there were times (during my ungrateful teens) when I didn’t find this exercise very endearing. As I grow older, it is one of the things I look forward to, and ponder, the most.

We are often so busy with life that we don’t spend much time considering what, or who, we are grateful for. The fourth Thursday of November is the one day of the year dedicated to giving thanks for the many blessings in our lives, (despite the peaks and valleys we all experience).  To find gratitude in our lives, we consider our basic needs:  Do we have our health?  Shelter?  Food?  Transportation?  A job?  Friends and family members (perhaps even coworkers) who love us?  These are just a few of the things on our list. The rest is just gravy…

Although Thanksgiving offers a perfect opportunity to express our gratitude, perhaps it could be a more frequent activity in our lives? After all, gratitude seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more grateful we are, the more we find to be grateful for.

A few ideas for capturing gratitude throughout the year:

  • A Gratitude  Journal :  A few times a week, jot down the things you are grateful for (or capture it on your iPhone via the Gratitude Journal App). When times get tough, referring to this journal can be extremely beneficial.
  • A Gratitude Box: This is one of the most meaningful gifts Oprah ever received. Inexpensive to create, the gratitude box can be given to a friend on a special occasion or duplicated for a special event (such as Thanksgiving).
  • A Family Thank Bank: Instead of coins, deposit small notes of gratitude into the slot of a piggy bank.  Similar to the gratitude journal, the thank bank allows the whole family to participate.

As warriors of the credit union movement, I think we witness gratitude more frequently than most people do. We get to see the looks on the faces of the members whose loans we approve, when other financial institutions have turned them down. We hear gratitude in the voices of the members whose problems we have listened to, and then helped solve.

One of the things I am most grateful for this year is being a part of this movement and of being surrounded, on a daily basis, by “people helping people”.  Thank you for all that you do!

Delivering Happiness to Our Members

Posted by on Friday, 15 October, 2010

Treated Like Royalty...

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Technology Council Conference.  The Technology Council and the OpSS Council combined forces this year to present two amazing events in one amazing venue: Las Vegas. This format allowed participants to listen to keynote speakers in a communal space, while giving them the option to choose  breakout sessions from either the Technology or OpSS tracks.   It was my first CUNA Council event in over ten years and I was not disappointed.

During a break between sessions, I had the opportunity to visit Zappos, the mecca of customer satisfaction. If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know I have a soft spot in my heart for Zappos. I had signed up for the free tour  as soon as I learned I would be going to Vegas for the conference. A little before 10:00am on Wednesday morning I got a call from Andrea, “can-do coordinator” at Zappos and my chauffeur for the morning. She was calling to let me know she was a little early for pick-up (sweet), but when I was ready, she would be waiting for me out front. I was impressed by the fact that Zappos sends its employees (rather than a car service) to pick up their tour-goers.  I knew I was in for quite ”an experience.”

On our short ride out to Zappos, Andrea told me about her experience working for Zappos and how lucky she was to work there. Not only had she done the customary four week call center training program that every employee is required to do, she had passed up the $2000 they offered her at the end of that period, to quit. By month’s end, she was already enamored with the Zappos culture, and no amount of money would entice her to resign. In the three years she had been employed since, her passion for her employer had grown even stronger. I could tell by the way she looked me in the eye  (through the rear-view mirror) when she spoke, by the way she smiled, and the pride in her voice when she told me about her various tasks.

We arrived at Zappos HQ and Andrea escorted me to the lobby. There I ran into some of the OpSS Council Executives who were just commencing their tour. They were blown away by what they had seen. “It was so amazing!” Said one. ”It was worth the entire trip!” Said another. The conference hadn’t even started yet so they were in for quite a week!

After bidding them farewell,  I checked in with the receptionist, a tough looking guy who surprised me by calling everyone, including me, ”friend”. I spent the next twenty minutes drinking from my complimentary water bottle (thanks Zappos), quietly observing my surroundings. It was nearing lunchtime by then and people were milling in and out of the front door. Every single one of them either nodded at me or said hello to me, and not in a fake, “I should be nice to that lady because she is on the tour” kind of way. Every single one of them was genuine and… happy. And they were sharing that happiness, with me.

The tour itself was, as promised, absolutely fabulous. I don’t have time to go into details but I can tell you that the next time you go to Vegas, you MUST do the tour. Even if you don’t love shoes (like I do), you will get something out of the experience.  Like Zappos, the credit union movement is “powered by service.” Every day, we are “serving our members” and every day we have countless opportunities to WOW them. Are we taking those opportunities?

At Zappos there are no limits on call times and no “cue cards” to follow. Each employee is trained to treat each customer as an individual. They listen to the caller. They find out what the caller needs. And then they do whatever it takes to make that caller HAPPY. This has led to some interesting, and memorable experiences. It has also led to more than 8000 customer testimonials!! Zappos lets their customers due most of their marketing for them. Happy customers (or happy members in our case) do tell their friends about their experiences.

The following day, as I sat listening to keynoter Jackie Freiberg talk about 7 Choices for Blowing the Doors off Business-as-Usual, I thought “Jackie is talking about what Tony Hseih is doing with his employees at Zappos.” True leaders, according to Jackie,  ”Inspire, model and teach other team members to: Do Whatever it Takes!”

Is your credit union doing whatever it takes to grow membership? Are you asking existing members to tell their friends (and family) how awesome your credit union is? Are you encouraging them to open “starter” accounts for their kids (the future of the credit union movement)? Are you delivering happiness to your members and if so, are you asking them for testimonials? If you do get their testimonials, are you sharing them with the world?

The time is right to “Do Whatever it Takes” to spread the credit union difference, and to deliver more happiness to the world, and our members.

A Culture of Fear or A Culture of Love?

Posted by on Thursday, 2 September, 2010

Source: DesktopNexus Abstract

Lately I have been thinking a lot about culture. Merriam-Webster defines culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”  Culture, undoubtedly, has a significant effect on an organization’s success or failure.

One of my favorite books is The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. Although it is written as “a practical guide to the art of relationship,” Ruiz’s philosophy can just as easily be applied to culture. Ruiz (and many others) speculate that everything in life can be viewed in terms of love and fear.

I am willing to bet that organizations with strong cultures tend to lead out of love. Think about your own organization. Are you surrounded by people who act out of love, love for the members they serve and love for the credit union movement?

People who act out of love are passionate about the work they do and the difference they make in the lives of others.  Conversely, people who act out of fear are apprehensive, anxious and terrified of making mistakes or of losing their jobs. People who act out of fear tend to take things personally, and may have a difficult time making the connection between the part they play and the bigger picture.

One company that seems to lead purely out of love is Founded in 1999 with almost no sales, in 2008 they surpassed $1 billion in sales. Not only is Zappos a successful business, it is consistently rated on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work ForWhen asked what the company’s biggest asset is, CEO Tony Hsieh’s answer is always the same: the culture.

Zappos culture is based on 10 Core Values:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

These core values play an integral role in how Zappos hires, trains and develops their employees. And these values aren’t just lip service. The Zappos 2009 Culture Book is filled almost entirely with emails from actual employees on what Zappos culture means to them. The comments were solicited from Hsieh, himself, who asked:

  • What does the Zappos culture mean to you?
  • What’s different about it compared to other company cultures?
  • What do you like about our culture?

Many leaders are afraid to ask their employees questions like this because they are terrified of the answers they will receive. Hsieh asked these questions out of love. He has faith that, “If we do the right thing, then in the long run we will succeed and build something great.” 

What about you? What does your credit union’s culture mean to you? What do you like (or dislike) about your culture? Does your organization act out of fear or out of love?

Source: NorthernSun

Live From The 1: Backstage with Kevin Carroll!

Posted by on Wednesday, 14 July, 2010

Books, Balls and Human Beings

In less than  an hour, the 1 Conference is going to blessed by Kevin Carroll’s presence. Kevin will be wrapping up what has been an absolutely wonderful week in Las Vegas. I can think of no better way to close.

I have known Kevin since 2003, when he joined us in Reno for that year’s annual meeting. Not only is Kevin an amazing speaker, he is an amazing man. When Kevin speaks to you, you feel like you are the most important person in the world. I love talking to Kevin and I always consider myself so lucky to know him.

About an hour ago, I joined Kevin backstage as he prepared for his session. As he carefully wrapped his “props,” we talked about where he has been, what he has been up to and what is inspiring him on a daily basis.

One of the first things he told me about is Katalyst: Confections for the Curious Soul. Built specifically for the web, this “one man show” invites viewers to see what happens behind the scenes.  I can’t wait to check it out.  Of course  I also had to ask what he is listening to and what he is reading.

On Kevin’s iPod:


Kevin’s Favorite Reads:

Kevin’s Favorite Blogs:

Kevin is one of those people who finds inspiration everywhere and passes his energy on to everyone he meets. He is a Katalyst, a Change Agent and a Teacher, among other things. He is also a huge supporter of credit unions! Kevin has been a proud member since 1980, and currently belongs to First Tech Credit Union in Beaverton, Oregon. I would tell you more about Kevin… but I don’t want to miss a minute of his session!!!

Live From The 1: Cooperatives – A Better Kind of Corporation

Posted by on Tuesday, 13 July, 2010

I am pleased to report that there are many young people at this conference! This is a very good thing. It means that many credit unions are recognizing the importance of providing leadership and training opportunities to their youthful employees. Soon, these members of Generation X, Y and Z will be at the helm of the credit union movement.

This year “Crashers” from all over the world descended upon the 1 Conference. Comprised of fifteen credit union professionals under the age of 30, the Crashers (led by Brent Dixon of the Filene Research Institute and sponsored by PSCU) have built their own conference around the “proper conference.” Besides attending the general and breakout sessions, the Crashers have scheduled conversations with industry thought leaders.They also have the benefit of building relationships with other under-30 credit union professionals like themselves, from around the world. The enthusiasm and excitement that these men and women bring to the movement is awesome.

Yesterday afternoon I sat in on one of the Crash sessions. Led by Paul Hazen, CEO of the NCBA, the session focused on selling the cooperative nature of credit unions. Hazen shared some enlightening information with his captive audience. Here are some of the key points:

  • There are 29,000 cooperatives in the United States;
  • There are 120,000,000 members of cooperatives worldwide (representing 70% of the adult population); and
  • Cooperatives account for 1% of the total GEP.

Cooperatives range in size from “small store-fronts to large Fortune 500 companies.” Some famous cooperatives include: Ace Hardware, Associated Press, Group Health Cooperative, Land O’ Lakes and REI.

Cooperatives form when a group of people unite for a variety of social and economic reasons. They form when individuals recognize that they can get much more done by partnering with others, than they can going it alone. The beauty of cooperatives is their openness, their honesty and their transparency. These themes really resonate with today’s young people, who relish the power that collaboration and community bring.

Are you educating your members on the cooperative difference?

Live From The 1: Your Business Brickyard – Getting Back to the Basics

Posted by on Monday, 12 July, 2010

This morning I had the pleasure of introducing Howard Mann, the President of  Brickyard Partners Inc.  Howard’s experience in leading his company out from under extremely difficult circumstances (following an economic downturn), is particularly applicable for credit unions today. How did he do it? By returning to basic principles.

During the session he recalled the rise, and subsequent fall, of his alma mater’s football team. Led by a new coach, the team had started out the year well by focusing on the basics: blocking, tackling, running hard and catching the ball. As their wins added up… their egos grew. Suddenly, they were dropping balls and fumbling passes; their winning streak ended. When asked how they would recover from the loss, the coach told reporters that he was sending his receivers “back to the brickyard.”

The “brickyard” he was referring to was a practice drill where receivers stood 20 feet apart and tossed an old, red brick, back and forth. The idea being that, “If you don’t pay close attention to the very basic skill of catching a brick, it will hurt–a lot.”

The same metaphor can be applied to credit unions. We need to go back to the basics and focus on executing them perfectly. One of the first steps in doing so, is to reconnect with our purpose. “Your purpose should be a true reflection of why you do what you do and what makes your business more fun to run. It should live at the intersection of what you truly do better than anyone else AND what your clients truly care about.”

As leaders in the movement, I turn this question over to you: What IS your credit union’s purpose? I look forward to hearing from you.

What I Learned About Social Media at Marketing Management School

Posted by on Wednesday, 7 July, 2010

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending CUNA’s Marketing Management School in Orlando, Florida. Although my tenure (ten years!) at CUNA has provided me with opportunities to travel and work at various onsite events this was my first experience working with credit union marketers. It was an absolute delight!

Meghann Dawson, my colleague and fellow CUNAverse blogger, spent the last year working with Anne Legg (CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Chair), and Randy Schultz (of Weber Marketing) to revamp the existing school.

The result was a stellar 3D program, with “dimensions” for marketers of every level.  Dimension 1 was led by Randy Schultz; Dimension 2 was led by Mark Arnold, CCUE (of Neighborhood Credit Union) and Dimension 3 was led by Jeff Rendel (of Rising Above Enterprises). This trio was responsible for leading and facilitating the educational offerings. Throughout the week Meghann and I heard from students in each dimension that their facilitator was “the best of the three.” Clearly, Randy, Mark and Jeff brought their “A game” to Orlando, as did all of the other speakers.

I personally learned A LOT at Marketing Management School… I could write several posts on the experience…but, I’ve boiled it down to this:

If you want to be a strong leader, you need to embrace Web 2.0/Social Media. What do I mean by this? You need to start educating yourself on Web 2.0. This means reading blogs (this one is a great start!), subscribing to RSS feeds, investigating wikis, and watching videos on sharing sites like YouTube, to name a few.  Social Media  is not a passing fad. Strong leaders recognize the true power of the Internet and the importance of being technologically savvy.  Embracing Web 2.0 might mean asking for help. Enlist the help of your part-time student teller. Hire a marketing intern from your local high school or college.  If nothing else, check out other credit unions who are embracing Web 2.0 well. Do whatever it takes to get educated because education truly IS power.

Last week my 11 year old niece taught my mom more about her iPhone in 3 days, than my mom had learned in 3 months. Why? Because kids play! They aren’t afraid to push buttons until they figure things out.  Become a kid again. Play! Have fun! Open yourself up to learning. It’s the only way to survive in today’s fast-paced, ever-connected world.

If your credit union is not involved in social media efforts, it’s time to get on board. In each classroom, this message was resounding. Web 1.0 was about obtaining information, Web 2.0 is about people. More importantly, people connecting with other people. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

43% of the online community is now using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. (If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, this piece is a good starting point). If you want your credit union to thrive, you must have an online presence.

As Senior Vice President of Marketing for Neighborhood Credit Union, Mark Arnold shared his top  Five Reasons for Using Social Media to Reach Members:

  1. To drive sales.
  2. To improve member service.
  3. To build your credit union’s brand.
  4. To create name awareness.
  5. To potentially save money.

As Mark pointed out so succinctly, social networking is about collaborating, interacting and transparency. Social networking is about honesty, authenticity, conversations and dialogue. Isn’t that what credit unions are all about too?

I returned from Marketing Management School refreshed, rejuvenated and reinspired by all of the wonderful things that are going on in Credit Union Land. I thank all of you who joined us on the journey!

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” —B. B. King