Credit Union Shark Week

Shark Week on Animal Planet is a pretty big deal to a lot of people.  Not so much for me.  I’m the guy that goes on vacation to Florida and sticks his foot into the ocean and calls it a day (I’ve “been in the ocean” three times. So, I’ve got that going for me…Which is nice.)  I know sharks don’t lurk in 2 inches of water, but jellyfish are another story.  Anyhow, I think there are some lessons that credit unions can learn from sharks.  I’m not talking about feasting on sea lions or instilling fear in people like myself.  Instead, I’m talking about the inherent characteristics that make sharks, well, sharks.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

 Sharks can’t stop swimming?

You’ve probably heard that sharks can’t stop swimming or they will die.  This is true of most species, but there are some exceptions.  Nonetheless, credit unions cannot afford to stop “swimming”.

As an industry we need to continue to make a concentrated effort to further what I will forever refer to as the “Credit Union Revolution.”  Every decision we make (I think about marketing and advertising mostly) should be about raising the bar, pushing the envelope and separating ourselves from our brothers and sisters in the banking industry.  I am not talking about bank bashing, but poking a little fun here and there has proven to be a tried and true method of getting people to understand that we are different by design.

Be cartilaginous!

Sharks are cartilaginous.  (Personally I just love this word.)  An animal that is cartilaginous is defined as one who’s skeleton is made up completely of cartilage.  This means that the animal is more flexible by nature.

We need to be flexible.  This rings true in the things that we already do.  A prime example of this is working with our members to understand their situation when they come to us for a loan that they can’t get anywhere else.  It goes much further than this though.  We should be flexible in the fact that we are one of the “best kept secrets” in the finance industry.  Being rigid and sticking to traditional ways of spreading the word about the value of credit union membership simply will not fly.  Our world has been rapidly changing for years and we need to be flexible and change with it.  Our marketing and advertising efforts need to be different, standout, maybe they need to be a bit outlandish (James Robert Lay has great insights on this. Here is just one of his most recent blogs for CUinsight.)  Generally speaking, the smaller size of our respective institutions are the perfect atmosphere for being flexible.  We need to enable our employees to tap into the resources we read and rely on for fresh new ideas.  Instead of only some of us hearing about the exciting things other credit union people are doing, we need our entire staff to understand that there are a lot of people doing awesome things in the name of “The Credit Union Revolution”.

I don’t know about you, but when I read an awesome blog post or hear about an exciting campaign someone in the industry is spearheading, I get amped.  Imagine if you could ignite your entire staff with that same amount of passion…

 Sharks are so misunderstood.

I’m a prime example of this.  I think sharks exist to hunt humans.  In reality, the number of shark attacks on an annual basis is relatively low.  Sharks are most definitely opportunistic.  I think the “we” the the torch bearers of “The Credit Union Revolution” could be much more opportunistic.  There is no better time than right now (Van Halen reference.)  While many of us are wearing many hats at our credit unions, we need to think outside of the branch (thought I was going to say box didn’t you?)  How can we carry on the conversations we have everyday in our branches to a wider audience?  How can we get the attention of others who have no knowledge or understanding of credit unions?  I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of countless community outreach events and each time, I’ve been able to spark conversations about credit unions.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is the credit union that I work at.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for everyone to join my credit union, but if the person doesn’t qualify, I’m Quick Draw McGraw with my iPhone to tell them about a credit union that can serve them.

We are a cooperative.  We are unique.  We are not sharks, but we should be fierce with passion about our industry.  People helping people sounds great, but we are much more than that.  We are people helping a population that is mostly unaware of what we can do for them.  To me this is the biggest tragedy.

Be cartilaginous, don’t stop swimming and make sure we are never misunderstood.

I look forward to your thoughts…

Without wax,

Bryce