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September is 30 things I would implement or consider implementing at my credit union if I was a credit union leader.
Thing 4: strengthen the board of directors
Here's what I would do to reinvigorate the democratic process at my fictitious credit union:
- Institute maximum term lengths. In most countries, a leader can only serve for maximum of eight years. Go beyond that and the idea well runs dry. I believe the same goes for credit unions. It's may be noble to serve for 30 or 40 years, but unless your directors are bringing new and insightful ideas to the table decade after decade, it likely isn't serving your credit union's best interest to have life-long board terms. I was a volunteer with my local chamber of commerce for six years. I started as a director, was elected to the executive, served as president for two years, was the past president for one and then they booted me to the street. And it was time!
- Require broad age representation. Only 6% of credit union board members are younger than 40! In my fictitious credit union, the board would be made up of members in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. The credit union rules would stipulate the number of seats in each decade! There should be more than grey hair at the table. Nothing against grey hair—in fact, my mom has a lovely head of it. And she's smarter than me in many ways, but at the ripe old age of 40, I think I know a thing or two that she and her fellow Boomers might have missed. It is no coincidence that the median age of a credit union member is 10 years older than the median age of the population—simply look at the demographics of the board to see the correlation. Check out Filene's MAP to Success project for ideas on how to get younger people involved.
- Pay the directors. It is common in Canada to pay the credit union's board of directors whereas in the US, board members are unpaid volunteers. At my ficticious credit union, the board members will be paid. To thrive over the next 100 years, credit unions need to reinvent themselves. To do this, credit unions will need to attract board members with a high level of varied expertise. Not only will modest compensation attract board members from all age groups, it will also hold all board members accountable to bring value and dedicate the time to properly steer the ship. Ginny Brady, a board member and blogger from New York's UFirst Credit Union examined this topic in detail on the CUES Skybox.
- Use social media to elect the board and to connect the board to the members. Vancity produced podcasts for all of its board nominees. United Communities created YouTube videos to introduce members to board nominees. Fantastic ideas. I would go a step further and broadcast the annual general meeting live online with Ustream. I'd also set up a Get Satisfaction forum to solicit ideas and feedback from the membership throughout the year. And, I would follow in the foot steps of Ginny and launch a blog for the board and require all members of the board to contribute.
I warned you that some of my 30 things might be controversial!
I visited a branch of my credit union recently. They have a nice picture of their board members with the credit union's mission statement underneath. It says 'Offering members exceptional and innovative financial services.'
Now, I personally know of one innovative thing they offer right off the bat. When my turn came, I went through my transaction waiting for a lull to ask my question. When it happened I asked, as I pointed to the picture on the wall, 'What innovative services do you offer?'
The teller looked at it and then replied 'Oh I don't know. They just made that up.' We had a good laugh and I went my merry way.
It's not a big deal. I got done what I came to do, had a friendly encounter, and a laugh at the end. If someone had been standing outside and asked me to rate my experience on an extremely satisfied to extremely dissatisfied scale, I would say it was close to the former. (Check back in a few days to see why I think member satisfaction is the enemy of a great credit union brand.)
But... let's think "what if."
What if she had responded immediately with "I can tell you three things that are innovative about our credit union." After all, I asked the question, so why not let loose and really own the statement?
Tip to all credit unions:
- Make sure your staff can explain anything you've posted or displayed in the branch in the blink of an eye.
- If staff have a tough time putting it into words, change the words. Odds are your members' eyes are glazing over at the "corporate-speak" anyway.
Do you have a simple yet inspiring mission statement?
The site is built on a real simple premise: it showcases potential director bios alongside simple YouTube videos. It is a neat way for members to get to know potential directors prior to the big vote. Each video has been viewed about 50 times, probably higher readership than the required Notice of AGM documents that were sent by mail!
This is a simple and effective use of available social media tools. Nicely done United Communities.