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CUNA Management School: Expo Night

Posted by on Tuesday, 31 July, 2012

Two heads are better than one, or so the saying goes. However, after CUNA Management School’s Expo Night, I feel the time-worn axiom should be updated just a bit: 223 heads are better than two.

Students of CUNA Management School flooded the CUNA campus Monday for the annual CUNA Expo night where the future credit union leaders collaborated to come up with the next big idea that will propel the credit union movement forward.

Upon arriving, the crowd of credit union professionals split into groups based upon topics each student selected previously. Each topic focused on ways to strengthen the credit union movement, spanning a vast spectrum of issues including:

  • Taking Your Career to the Next Level
  • Getting Social Media Right
  • Raking in the Loans
  • Making Mandatory Compliance Training Fun
  • Attracting Gen Y
  • Increasing Credit Union Awareness
  • And more

The groups were challenged to come up with a BIG IDEA that addressed their topic and submit that idea to be judged by the entire room for its originality, practicality and overall inventiveness. Pride was not the only thing on the line. Each member of the winning group, as determined by a school-wide vote, would be entered for the chance to win $3,000 scholarship dollars towards their class scholarship fund.

Oh, and the entire event was being timed. Go!

You can imagine what happened next. Talking, discussing, listening, re-thinking, talking louder, debating, and eventually, innovation. After time was called, one team member from each group expressed their group’s idea visually on a piece of paper. Explaining your idea audibly was “illegal.” The CUNA cafeteria suddenly got much more colorful wallpaper.

Now for the vote. After all ideas were posted, each student was equipped with 3 “likes” that they could assign to 3 separate ideas. You could “like” your own idea, but only once, and you had to distribute all three of your “likes.” Here are a few of the most popular ideas, as explained by the students themselves:

  • BIG IDEA: Loan it Forward Program  This idea is based on the fact that the cheapest and most effective advertising is WORD OF MOUTH. When a member closes a loan, at time of the loan closing, they are given a $50 Loan it Forward coupon. They give this coupon to a friend, co-worker or family member. When the friend, co-worker or family member applies for a loan, the original member gets $50! Then at the time of their closing, the new member gets a Loan it Forward coupon to pass out and the cycle continues. With this promotion, the credit union’s loan volume will grow.
  • BIG IGEA: Attract & Retain Young Members  To keep pace with the large number of members, especially young members, converting to mobile banking, credit unions should develop financial applications to make it easier to access the financial resources they need on their smart phone. Some applications to develop include: Pay Merchant, Bill Pay, FaceTime with a credit union service representative, financial calculators, remote deposits, Pay Book and more. These resources will please existing members and attract new ones.
  • And the winner! BIG IDEA: Member Created Ad Contest In order to increase credit union awareness, CUNA and state leagues will host a national advertising contest. Participants will be challenged to create their own ads praising the credit union difference and will submit their entries by uploading their advertisement onto YouTube. The winning advertisement, as determined by either votes or views, will be featured in their state league’s credit union campaign and receive $25,000 in prize money. Runners up will have the chance to win 1 of 500 iPads.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. After last night’s event I can confidently say that the credit union movement’s future could not be in better (or more enthusiastic) hands. Watch for more big idea posts soon.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Here’s Why this Millennial Gen Xer LOVES Her Credit Union

Posted by on Tuesday, 14 February, 2012

Full disclosure, I was born in 1979 so I guess I can technically be categorized as a Gen Xer.  But apparently my frequent texting, engagement across multiple social media channels and likely the fact that I was born at the very end of the Gen X timeframe align me much more with the characteristics of Gen Ys/Millennials.  Need further proof -I just scored 89 on this How Millennial Are You quiz (you should take the quiz too and let us know where you fall).  Anyway, it’s a fact – I’m totally a young 32!

At a planning session recently, that included a mix of generations but mostly Gen Ys and Gen Zs, our discussion led to identifying the things that make us pick one business over another.  More specifically, what are the things that make us not only choose to do business but love doing business with a certain establishment? 

Myself – along with the Gen Ys and Zs came up with the top 5 things that make that difference to us.  After our meeting I realized how much my credit union succeeds at these things and that’s why I love them.  So while the list is not exhaustive, I think there are some insights for you to consider as you work to not only lower the average age of your members – but evolve to a credit union that younger members fall in love with.

Please take a moment to view our slideshow for 5 tips for winning your younger members’ hearts.  We’d also love to hear what you think is missing from our list.  And if you’d like to share your Millennial quiz score - bragging rights will be awarded to the oldest commenter with the highest score!!

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Big Time Thursday: The ACUC in Texas! (Contest)

Posted by on Thursday, 24 March, 2011

Improv Everywhere Founder Charlie Todd

What do you get when you hold an America’s Credit Union Conference & Expo (ACUC) planning session after watching Improv Everywhere’s I Love Lunch! The Musical? If you’re me, you get this crazy idea to hold a random musical at the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC).   That’s right, we’re so excited about ACUC we decided to sing about it at this year’s GAC.  OK, full disclosure, we actually were so excited we hired actors to sing about it (nobody wants to hear me sing), and enlisted some friends from the CUNA Councils to help as well.    That’s right, exhibit hall attendees were surprised by this CUNA ACUC 2011 Random Musical. (Warning: Once you watch this you’ll likely be humming the tune all afternoon!)

Are there ways credit unions can use things like random musicals and flash mobs to stand out in a crowded market?  With the right plan up front and strategy to help it go viral, there are certainly ways these can compliment your traditional promotions.  Join us at ACUC to hear Improv Everywhere (the group behind the I Love Lunch! Musical)  founder Charlie Todd present a thought leader session sharing details behind some of his group’s biggest pranks and what credit unions can learn from using those kinds of tactics.

Already have a video you’re trying to spread the word on?  I recently spoke with Michael Taylor of PLAY Creative, the marketing agency who worked with the Nebraska Credit Union League on their recent CU Awareness Campaign.  Here are some simple ways Taylor suggests to help spread the word about your video:

  • Post the video link on Facebook fan pages of other groups your audience would likely be interested in
  • Share the link on Twitter and ASK people to share with their friends and comment on the site where you’re hosting the video. Asking people on Twitter versus just sharing a link can help you get more people to actually pass the link on.
  • Reach out to like-minded blogs and ask them to post a story about your viral project.  Make sure to include an answer to the question “What’s in it for their readers?”
  • Tag the video correctly on YouTube.  This is key for people searching on YouTube.  Having good tags also helps bring the video up in Google searches.
  • Send a plain old e-mail to friends and family.  This can help spread the word in the early going. In turn, they will also likely share with their friends and family.

BIG TIME Thursday CONTEST: We want to know, what are some of the BIG TIME things your credit union is doing or planning to do to stand out from the competition? Answer that question in a comment below and we’ll do a random drawing on March 31st (just in time to kick off our next Big Time Thursday contest) of all commenters to give away an Apple iPod® nano 8 GB (6th Generation) and a copy of Charlie Todd’s book Causing a Scene: Extraordinary Pranks in Ordinary Places with Improv Everywhere.

Read more about BIG TIME Thursday Contests (there will be lots of great prizes through May 2011).

UPDATE (3/31): This contest has ended – congratulations to our winner, Cheryl Hart, who won an Apple iPod® nano 8 GB (6th Generation) and a copy of Charlie Todd’s book Causing a Scene: Extraordinary Pranks in Ordinary Places with Improv Everywhere.  THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED!

CONTEST DETAILS: Contest begins today and ends on Wed., March 30th 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.
iPod® is a registered trademark of Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple is not a participant in or sponsor of this promotion.

A Historic Night in Wisconsin

Posted by on Thursday, 10 March, 2011

The Disclosures

Last night I witnessed history go down by the Wisconsin state capitol and it had nothing to do with politics.

It was the release party for the first ever “thrift-rock” album.

The album titled (Hey, We’re) The Disclosures features songs and lyrics by the  Madison duo The Disclosures.  The album deals with credit union history, financial education and cooperative structure.

Just got my signed CD!

Our CUNAverse team is super excited to see one of our founding members, Christopher Morris, who is now Director of Communications for the the National Credit Union Foundation, combine his love of music with the credit union industry in such a cool way.

The other half of this fabulous duo is Chad Helminak, Web Producer/Member Development Strategist for the Wisconsin Credit Union League.  On The Disclosures website Helminak share’s  “We had a blast writing and recording our songs and hope that comes through on our album and live performances.”

The Morris Girls - how could I not buy a CD from these adorable girls, well played Christopher!

The release party was attended by a bunch of credit union land folks, friends and family of Christopher and Chad.  We were treated to a live performance of all of the songs off of the album.   A great time had by all, including some folks outside of the industry that found it pretty entertaining to hear songs about credit unions.  Hoping some of them were entertained in to moving their money from their bank to a credit union!

The album is currently available for download on major digital music stores such as iTunes, and others. Physical copies of the CD are available online through the The Disclosures’ website

What’s On Your Stop Doing List for 2011 (Contest)

Posted by on Monday, 13 December, 2010

Cool Faded Stop Sign by doortoriver

Are you like me – do you have a to-do list that never seems to get any shorter?  This time of year it seems like the list is never ending.  My blackberry is loaded up with task reminders, appointments, and  meeting after meeting.  My desk is wallpapered with post-it note lists of things to do, phone calls to return and I have a huge whiteboard detailing the many projects I need to tackle.  On top of all of that, now there is yearend wrap-up and 2011 planning.  So when I heard the following statement from Jim Colllins’ Good to Great it was a game changer for me:

 ”STOP doing lists are more important than to-do lists”!

According to Collins, one of the things that all great leaders do is create “pockets of quietude” to disconnect from their hectic schedule and focus on thinking.  Imagine that - taking planned time to sit back and think about your next big idea.  But how in the world can we fit that quiet time into our busy lives?  We can take a good look at our to-do lists and pick things that we are going to commit to stop doing. 

A few weeks ago my department watched a video of Jim Collins’ presentation at The 1 Credit Union Conference.   I had the pleasure of watching him speak live back in July, but getting to watch it with my team was even more impactful.  A group of us were so fired up afterwards that we’ve decided to start a discussion group to take the concepts and turn them into actionable items that will help take our team from good to great. 

Our first group assignment was to take one of the concepts and apply it to our personal roles here at CUNA.  We eventually plan on tackling some bigger group challenges, but we needed to start somewhere, so we’re starting with our own little realm of control.  I decided to try out the stop doing concept.   Somewhere along the line it seems like all of my tasks started to feel urgent, and I wanted to figure out what tasks truly were important.  For this first week’s exercise I found one thing that was getting in my way to really focus on big ideas was my e-mail notification.  Every time it would pop up I’d get distracted from the projects that were most important. 

So the first action on my stop doing list: I am going to stop allowing every single e-mail to pull my attention away from the bigger tasks at hand.  I’ve turned off the e-mail notification alert on both my blackberry and computer and have set up scheduled time to address my e-mail inbox.  It’s a really small first application of the stop doing concept, but for me it’s been a huge help.  In just one week I’m already feeling much more focused and am having a lot of  fun tackling the bigger projects on my to do list.

I urge you to do the same, sit back and determine activities to work on that are really contributing to your own personal success and the success of the goals of your credit union.  It’s a really eye opening exercise.  Those tasks that are blocking you from those key activities – add them to your stop doing list!

So, what’s one thing you can stop doing in 2011 (or now if you’re so inclined)?  It can be small or huge – you’ve just got to start with something.  

Answer that question in a comment below and we’ll do a random drawing on December 20th to give away a signed copy of Collins’ most recent book – How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In!

CONTEST DETAILS: Contest begins today and ends on Monday, December 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.


Looks Like a Boring Kind of Cheap Shirt

Posted by on Thursday, 4 November, 2010

Prior to starting at CUNA 7 years ago I had no clue what a credit union was.  My parents had always belonged to banks and when I was looking for a financial institution, ”bank” was the only brand I knew.  Even after my husband and I both had terribly negative experiences with our bank we stayed put because we didn’t realize there was a better choice.  I don’t remember ever being taught what a bank was, it’s just all that I ever knew. I wish that somebody had sold me on credit unions earlier on;  it would have saved me some terrible service experiences and lots of money spent on bank fees. 

Truth is, even after starting at CUNA, it took me some time to really get the fact that credit unions were such a great choice for consumers.  I still have plenty of friends that I haven’t been able to convince to leave their banks, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that like me a few years ago, banks are familiar to them, and thus perceived as the best choice.

I recently came across the following video which conveys the impact branding has at an early age.  This simple school project shows that at as early as grade school children begin equating the value of something with their knowledge of that something’s brand.   The older a person gets, the more this belief gets solidified regarding the brands they know and turn to. 

I think in some ways credit unions are like  the logo-less products in the video, many people don’t really understand what a credit union is so they see credit unions as a lesser option than a bank.   To overcome that, credit unions need to begin creating a loyalty to their brand at as early an age as possible.   Whether it’s through a partnership with local schools, a sponsorship of  certain youth events or strengthened relationships with current members to help ensure they are sharing their love of their credit union with their kids.  Credit unions need to be doing something to make sure children start seeing them as relevant, or years down the road they will have an even harder time trying to convince them that they are the best choice. 

In an article in Credit Union Magazine, CUNA executive vice president and chief operating officer, John Franklin shared that “it is estimated that today’s 90 mil­lion {credit union} members have 19 million children under 18 years old. Studies show the very best way to get loyal young members is through their parents’ memberships. Yet little progress is being made.”   

What are you and your credit union doing now to make sure today’s kids become future loyal members of your credit union?

Words of Wisdom from the Class of 1997

Posted by on Thursday, 23 September, 2010

My H.S. Yearbook

Just last week I sent an e-mail to former CUNAverse blogger Christopher Morris wishing him the very best in his new position at NCUF (check out his last official CUNAverse blog post ).  After that e-mail we joked that it felt like I was signing his yearbook. That conversation got me wondering what words of wisdom were left in my yearbook 13 years ago.  Just thinking back to high school brought back so many different types of personal memories – from football games and dances to first heartbreaks, both great and terrible teachers, standardized tests, stressing way too much about homework, some poor decisions and a lot of really fun times with great friends.   

Inspired by those memories, I dug out my senior yearbook to see what my friends at Oakcrest High School imparted on me as I was set to graduate. Reading what my classmates had written made me realize some bigger things about who we were.  We were the Class of 1997 – we were excited about the endless possibilities for our future and we were friends who sincerely wished the very best for one another. In some ways we were wise beyond our years and in other ways we were really naïve.  Here are a few of the comments and some of the advice given by my classmates:

  • Don’t party too much and try to do some work.
  • Don’t let anyone change you.
  • Don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.
  • Don’t let anything hold you back in life.
  • Keep smiling.
  • You’ve got the potential to rule the world.
  • I have no doubt that there will be anything but success in your future.
  • Thank you for your friendship, I would be a different person if we had never met. 
  • As you move on to very exciting times take a moment every now and again to remember the great memories. 
  • Be true to yourself in all that you do.
  • May all of your dreams come true!

My yearbook picture in 1997

I’m guessing when I read many of these words years ago I didn’t take the words to heart in but instead focused on the feelings of sadness of leaving my peers behind and excitement/nervousness of starting the next chapter in my life.  Looking back and reading those words today I can’t help but feel inspired by my classmates and hope that I’ve lived up to many of their parting words.

Looking through my yearbook also made me realize how many classmates are no longer with us, just 13 years after graduation.  Life is short and even though as adults we don’t actually have yearbooks, we should tell the people in our lives that they matter, we should encourage them to live up to their potential, we should remind them of the things about them that make them so special to us and we should thank them for being in our lives.   

Dust off your own yearbooks and check out the words of wisdom your classmates had for you - I’d love to hear some of the great advice you were given; I’m sure there are lessons we could all learn today.

Can Your Frontline Recover?

Posted by on Tuesday, 3 August, 2010

I’m sure something like this has happened to you – a negative experience with a company that could have been saved so easily.

Last week my daughter developed pink eye after our normal pharmacy was already closed so I was sent to the other pharmacy in our area.  The pharmacist mistakenly declared there was no co-pay for the purchase and sent us on our way.  A few days later, I received an angry phone call from someone else at the pharmacy who was shocked that this mistake had happened. They went on to slam the poor guy that made the mistake, and demanded I come in immediately to pay for the prescription.  So back to the pharmacy I went.  I had to explain the situation to four different employees and wait for 45 minutes while they discussed how to proceed right in front of me.  Turns out their system couldn’t accept my $10.00 at this point due to how the initial mistake was entered. Again, they mentioned how stupid the first guy must have been and now the person that called me was an idiot in their eyes too.  Eventually, they agreed that I had waited long enough and it was time to let the $10.00 go.  They apologized for the inconvenience and sent me on my way. 

There were a few opportunities throughout this whole ordeal that the negative experience could have been turned around, but those opportunities were wasted.  Finally, waiving the co-pay could be viewed as a last ditch effort to save the interaction, but it was too late – the amount of time I ended up wasting with this pharmacy and how negative they made me feel certainly won’t be forgotten. 

Parts of this experience could have possibly been blamed on just one of the employees or even attributed randomly to the circumstances – but the whole experience had me really questioning this particular company and even more specifically their lack in arming their front-line staff with the training and tools necessary for recovery.   Studies show that some of the strongest customer loyalty comes not from smooth customer service experiences but from those times when something went wrong and the company did a stellar job in making things right.  

According to Celeste Cook, President/CEO of cuSrategies and opening keynoter for this year’s CUNA FUSE “Frontline staff is the face of your institution.  They have mega influence on whether you prosper, earn client loyalty, and develop new relationships.  Everything frontline employees do and say or don’t do and say impacts growth and retention.”  Cook shared these insights about the connection between employees and growth and retention in a recent article for Branch Manager’s Letter.  She goes on to state that “The touch points and opportunities afforded frontline staff to build and strengthen client relationships are far greater and have a far greater impact on growth and retention than any other delivery channel.”

With frontline staff at credit unions playing such an important role it is imperative that they be ready to handle all member interactions, even the really negative ones, as an opportunity for growth.  What about the frontline staff at your credit union?

  •  Do they see the importance of the job they are doing and how strongly that can impact the success of your credit union? 
  •  Have they been provided with adequate training? 
  •  Are they rewarded for exemplary service to members? 
  •  Are they empowered to do what is necessary to turn a negative member experience into a positive opportunity for the credit union?

I’m hoping that the answer is yes to most of the above questions, if not, what are you doing to ensure a simple $10.00 transaction doesn’t turn in to the loss of a loyal member?

What Credit Unions Can Learn from that Guy on Oprah

Posted by on Tuesday, 8 June, 2010


I am one of the millions of people who watched Bernard Lachance fulfill his dream on the Oprah Winfrey Show last year.  If you haven’t heard Bernard’s story check out his message to Oprah and then watch his invitation to her show.  Watching his story is so much better then me rehashing the background here.  Even after a year, the story still makes me choke up.  So how lucky do I now feel to be working on a session for the upcoming 1 Credit Union Conference with Bernard!  He is going to share how credit unions can tap into the things that have helped him to continue to make his dreams come true.

Whether you are trying to reach a personal goal that seems out of reach or if you are looking to take your credit union to new heights – there are lessons to be learned from Bernard’s amazing journey.  His successes haven’t come without hard work, but his unique approach has helped him go beyond his wildest dreams.

While we’ll have to wait until Bernard’s Innovation on a Shoestring breakout session July 13th to learn how he suggests we utilize his strategies, there are some things about his story that make all of his success no surprise to me.

Nurtured Strengths:  Bernard was born with a great voice, but on top of that he was surrounded by a musical family, his father a music teacher and his sister a piano player.  His environment helped to fuel his ambition to succeed in the entertainment business.  Is your credit union a place where strengths are identified and continually nurtured?

Legwork:  Bernard didn’t just jump into show business, he was formally educated and then spent a few years taking voice lessons and observing the industry.  He even would attend various TV show tapings to help him to begin understanding the ins and outs of the business before he fully made his jump in to entertainment.  Are new hires expected to have any knowledge of the credit union philosophy when they start at your credit union? 

Buzzworthiness:  This guy knows how to create buzz.  The marketing strategies he uses are different from anything I’ve ever seen.  From mailing a copy of his demo tape to every citizen in a community he is trying to make his name in to his clever t-shirt design to sell out his theater tickets, he knows how to get people talking.  What are you doing to get people to want to tell their friends how great your credit union is?  

Passion:  I think this is the key to Bernard’s story.  His videos capture how truly passionate he is about the dreams he has for his future and that translates into creating an emotional reaction from those of us who encounter his story.  Without a passion for what he’s reaching for he’d likely fall short on all of the creativity, hard work and determination needed to succeed.  What about your job motivates you to keep reaching for those nearly impossibly goals?

Bernard has shown that big things are possible.  What are you dreaming big about and what are you doing to make it happen?

CUNA School Goes 3 Dimensional

Posted by on Thursday, 6 May, 2010

When I started hearing buzz about Avatar, I had no interest in jumping on the 3D bandwagon.  The thought of Titanic in space came to mind – and that just wasn’t going to push me to go to the trouble of working out the logistics of a night out. (I still can’t believe the amount of pre-planning needed for something as simple as going to a movie when you have a 2 year old.)  After the movie was out for awhile, we had a sitter lined up and I finally gave in to the hype.  Despite the fact that I had no clue the IMAX would be still sold out, and I had to sit in the 2nd row fighting some pretty bad motion sickness – I absolutely loved it!  So much that I went back the next week with a much better seat, and had the best movie experience ever.  I know I sound like a geek – but come on, it really was fantastic!

After getting caught up in all the hype,  I was so excited to see a 3D concept for CUNA’s Marketing Management School.  This year’s school is going to be such a fun event, held just minutes from Disney, with a great opening keynote from Bill Capodagli, author of Innovate the Pixar Way.  I think the 3D concept (complete with a brochure including glasses!)  is the perfect way to convey both the playful side of the school as well as the fact that this program will truly help you add a whole new dimension to your credit  union marketing efforts.

Within days of our direct mail piece going out, I received more feedback than I ever have regarding a mailer.  Thank you to all who reached out to let us know how much you liked it.  We’re still having fun with it – and want to keep sharing our excitement with you.  We’re putting the 3D glasses included in the brochure to use with a newly announced contest.  The winner will receive a complimentary registration to CUNA’s Marketing Management School.  Put on your 3D glasses and check out the details (hurry – contest ends May 10th).

We all receive a ton of mail, so hearing that so many of you liked this particular piece was pretty cool.  Have you gotten something in the mail recently that really stood out  or has your credit union put together a mailer that had great results?  What was it that made the difference?