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The Paulson Plan: What’s A Credit Union to Do?

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s recently announced plan to overhaul the regulation of the US financial services industry has generated much concern in credit union circles, and rightly so. There was a terrific discussion about the plan’s implications on the OpenSource CU Blog last week. 

Late in the week, many folks were no doubt cheered by the remarks of House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank. (Also, as you probably know – Paulson himself said that the credit union reaction to the plan was “a bit premature.”)

Despite late-week assurances, I think CUNA is right on the money to get in front of this thing – and there are a few key lessons for credit unions to draw from this:

  1. Keep telling your stories (and if you aren’t – START!). A comment that was attributed to Uber-Marketer Ron Shevlin at BarCampBank New England this past weekend says it best: “It’s not about telling members our stories, but about getting them to tell their own stories. Create experiences.” (Thanks to Andy LaFlamme of Maine State CU for relaying this quote via Twitter.)   
    I’m pretty sure that Ron was referring to the word-of-mouth that happens when a credit union comes through for a member when it matters most. I would take this one step further and encourage you to find those member stories and where possible and permissible, share them with the world using your existing message channels. Add them to your newsletter, put them out on your web site and share them when you mix and mingle in your community. And do these things regularly.
    Low fees and good deposit rates are nice, but frankly that’s banker-speak. The difference your credit union makes in people’s lives IS the CU difference – everything else is secondary.   
  2. Get involved politically. We are blessed in NC to have so many great credit union advocates who get involved in the political process … but there’s always room for more! While some people go to Raleigh as part of State Capital Connections or DC for Hike the Hill, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own credit union branch to advocate for your credit union! You can host a legislator at your CU, hold voter registration drives and many other activities to develop relationships with elected leaders. These relationships give you the opportunity to share the credit union difference with lawmakers. If you have any questions about how to get involved, call us here – we’re always happy to provide assistance.
  3. We’ve got to work together. Credit unions of various sizes have different operational challenges of course … and the competitive landscape is different than in years past. But the opportunity to be successful (perhaps even viable?) in the future lies primarily in our ability to close ranks and say to the world, “We may be many credit unions, but we are one, united movement.”

Language matters. Despite the assurances of the treasury secretary, anyone reading what the proposal actually says should be concerned for the credit union movement. But this is also true: information is currency, and our stories in this context make us fabulously wealthy. No matter the outcome of the Paulson Plan, I believe both our individual and collective dedication to sharing the credit union difference will determine the fate of the credit union system.    

What do you think?


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for mentioning that quote, but I’m not sure you’ve captured my intention. Marketers (e.g., Godin) talk about “telling authentic stories.” Those stories are nice, but they’re NOT what drives emotional loyalty with customers/members.

    It’s the stories the CUSTOMERS tell, and most importantly, the ones they tell THEMSELVES. In their heads. The subconscious reasons why they choose the same box of cereal every time, prefer the gas station on the SW corner to the one on the NE corner, and why — despite the fact that they might get a better rate and/or lower fees at a bank or CU down the street — they stay with YOUR credit union.

    These stories are often borne from the experiences they have with the firms they’re loyal to. And when you combine an emotional situation with an outstanding experience, if you’re lucky, what you get is a “story that the customer tells him/herself.”

  2. Ron – thanks for spelling that out, and clarifying it. And I could not agree more – I stick with my credit union because of a few key experiences I’ve had with them over the years.

    I think it’s these kinds of experiences that can tell your credit union’s story to people who may be otherwise unaware.

    Sorry to have missed BarCamp – sounds like it was a great time. Thanks again for leaving a comment.

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