This is probably my tenth attempt at trying to write a summary of all that happened at the Credit Union Central of Canada’s Boldly Forward Conference in Charlottetown, PEI May 3-7, 2014.
Why so many failed attempts you ask? Well for one, I know that though I may think my writing and ponderings are fascinating, those of you who read this want information but may not want to have to read for ages to get it. Two, being new to the credit union system I realize that things I found interesting may be old news to some. And finally, I feel that the inspiration the event evoked, the great people I met, and the renewed sense of purpose I got from attending can’t possibly be reproduced via text. So I have decided to pick a few of the many moments that inspired me during the event and leave an open invitation to ask me for more details or more ‘favorite moments’ should your curiosity be piqued.
1. Richard Florida during his “Why Creativity is the New Economy” presentation:
In his talk, Richard Florida pointed out that we have moved into an ‘age of knowledge.’ We have transitioned from only valuing physical skill to recognizing the ‘why’ behind everything we have ever done may actually be more important. This idea has led to the rise of the creative class. He described that there are 3 T’s to economic growth and those are Technology, Talent, and Tolerance (tolerance being the idea to be open-minded). We are number one in tolerance, we are trying to keep up in technology, but what we seem to be lagging behind our Canadian competitors in talent. Now frankly this shocked me, especially after attending the National Young Leader’s CU Next Gen Intensive where I met some of the best and brightest young people in our CU system. But the point that Mr. Florida got to is that your team is only as great as you let them be. “Stock the creative furnace as it is the skills and creativity of the team that makes an economy great.” Let the talent of your staff, young and old, lend itself to the success of your credit union and you may be surprised at the outcome.
2. Phil Moore during his “Ghosts of Credit Union’s Past” presentation at the NYLC CU Next Gen 2.0:
Credit Unions were created by everyday individuals whose needs were not being met. They existed to serve the underserved. These were our early farmers, fishermen, and husbands seeking a rum budget away from the eyes of their wives. They all had needs that were not being met. The idea of a Credit Union was discussed at kitchen tables and all of those involved simply volunteered to try and make things better. Why is this important? Because there is a constant struggle to continue to tend to the needs of our members, and to know what our members needs are even before they do. The past can also serve as a lesson. Credit Unions were created to serve needs, are we still serving needs or do we serve wants? We say we serve niche markets, is this true? Or are we simply phrasing it so we do not have to admit our memberships are smaller for a bigger reason? Our history shapes us and should not be ignored but as our present will attest, we can’t stay the same simply because something once worked at some point in time. I believe in order to know where you should go in the future, you also have to know where you have been. Perhaps that is why this conversation was so interesting to me.
3. Brent Bergen, Rich Harries, Layla Khalil during their “Changing the Member Experience to Meet Changing Customer Expectations” workshop:
Earlier in the week, in the NYLC CU Next Gen 2.0 sessions we discussed the idea of member loyalty. What predicts loyalty is not satisfaction, it is reduced effort. Therefore our services must be simple, flexible and convenient to ensure our members stay loyal. This member engagement session was built on that ideology. They offered that the areas CU’s must address our increased competition, realize our membership is more sophisticated and expect more of us, and that we need to transition out of our redundant order taking culture. These issues can all be dealt with by asking one big question…WHY? By asking what your ‘why’ is you can investigate what inspires your member to do business with you, and what your employees can rally behind. They also went on to explain why having the right people on your team makes such a difference and how you have to measure your successes just as closely as your failures. Brent Bergen summed this up expertly by saying we need to “create an environment where you can fail safely.” That way your employees will do things the right way for the right reasons.
“What gets said gets done. What gets done gets recognized. What gets recognized gets repeated”
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
Change is inevitable. Alisdair Smith summed the whole idea of change up beautifully during the conference. He said “because we create there will always be change.” When our goal continues to be ‘figure out what the member wants before they want it’ our ability to accept change becomes our biggest hurdle. “What compels us to change must appeal to more than our rational brain” says Smith. He is referring to the fact that change, in order to be successful, has to be a transition that changes culture. Simply having a strategy is not enough, as culture will trump strategy every time. Change might mean embracing and investing in technological advancements. Change might be a national credit union with only a few branches in each province or territory. Change might be a young leader’s idea not being overlooked and given a chance. Whatever the change, as Credit Unions we all need to be able to accept that we may have to do things differently to continue to move forward, to collaborate and put egos aside for the betterment of our business.
In closing I would just like to say that I think EVERYONE, no matter your position or size of your CU, should make it a goal to attend one of these conferences (I was lucky enough to attend because of a contest I won). It allows you to step outside the world that is your branch/office and see that you are not alone and that you are an essential piece of the CU puzzle. I think one of the best things about credit unions is their willingness to collaborate and share success. Take advantage of that. This type of conference makes you part of the big conversations, puts you on level with top executives where your ideas matter just as much as theirs do. The experience will reinvigorate you and you will come back renewed and ready to tackle anything.
As promised in my opening, if you would like to hear more about the conference or have questions please do not hesitate to contact me:
Macklin Credit Union Ltd.