The dinosaurs didn't have broadband, what's your credit union's excuse?

Many of the credit union technocrats that follow the blog-o-sphere will find this post old news. However, many top-ranking credit union executives seem sadly unaware of the impending onslaught of Web 2.0 financial service offerings quickly making what credit unions offer seem almost prehistoric.

While credit unions are busy guarding their market-share and fiercely competing against other credit unions and banks, there is a new breed of financial service offerings out there that may well pass the credit union movement by.

From the online free Personal Financial Management (PFMs) services like Wesabe, Mint and Jwaala to alternative lending services like Prosper, Zopa, Lending Club and Bill Me Later, these start-ups are for real and heavily funded by venture capital. Unlike their dot-com predecessors that dot-bombed, these new ventures have timing on their side. The Internet has matured to a place where broadband is the norm and the general public is comfortable doing business online.

And, with legitimate, innovative (and free) services that make sense and actually work, this new crop of financial services represent a huge threat to credit unions or a huge opportunity. The choice is yours. Here are 12 just to get your feet wet.

They have great names and branding, great websites and many of these services are using the social web to build like-minded communities that out-community most credit unions. So what is a credit union to do? 

  1. First of all, be aware of what is happening in the world beyond your branch doors and your city limits. The best thing you can do is get educated on the myriad of new services popping up monthly. Here are three blogs to follow. All three follow this space very closely.
  2. Stop trying to control your members online activities—they have Google and they are smarter than you give them credit for! The first reaction of your peers is to try to shield members from third-party services. The winners will be those credit unions that figure out how to work with these companies to provide the best value for their members. Make the calls and see how you can partner.
  3. Think like a start-up. It's time to shed the best practices mentality and stop living in the past. Pull up your socks and start innovating and aligning your credit union with innovators.
  4. Don't think this is just the realm of the young person. Did you know the average age of YouTube's participating members is over 45 years old? Everyone is getting more and more comfortable with technology.

These are exciting times. At the recent Partnership Symposium at FORUM Solutions, Robbie Wright asked an interesting question in a session on lending trends by Doug True. Robbie asked, "These start-ups seem so able to innovate compared to credit unions. What's stopping our credit unions from coming up with these ideas?"

Doug's response said it all, "Absolutely nothing."

Tim