Why small credit unions have some unique advantages today

Tim has forced me to respond to his comment on Cuesskybox’s entry for Small Credit Unions. So maybe there are 10 good reasons on why ‘Small is Beautiful’ for credit unions.

  1. Relationships – smallness dictates that the number of relationships between members, staff and board is manageable for all parties. There is a quality, not quantity, in relationships.
  2. Communication is quick and inclusive.
  3. Transparency. There is always an understanding on why things are happening.
  4. Challenges that are healthy. Being small means you can’t take anything for granted.
  5. Agility in being able to move and respond quickly to any circumstance.
  6. Planning that is truly dynamic. You have a plan but you are constantly reviewing and upgrading it based on any and all communication received.
  7. Teamwork. Everyone can participate in the continuing sense of accomplishment.
  8. Managing your own destiny. There are market conditions and circumstances beyond anyone’s control but you can steer and manage quickly and precisely. You aren’t a 53 branch credit union so can manage in a much different direction.
  9. Technology is cheap. If you put the pillars you need in place to use technology as a strategic advantage, today’s hardware prices and work tools have never been cheaper or more powerful. You can build what you need.
  10. Politics don’t get in the way of accomplishing what needs to be done.
  11. Members, members, members. The always come first.

I haven’t posted in a week with all the family events recently (niece from Denmark, youngest son moving to Denmark). When the weather is good computer screens look a little gruesome.

Cities on Flickr

Flickr has some amazing information that is not all pictures. When you type in a search you get the number of photos that apply to that tag. So here are some results.

  • London 2,119,240
  • Paris 1,898,223
  • San Francisco 1,798,543
  • “San Francisco” 1,439,052
  • “New York” 2,045,106
  • New York 1,273,920
  • Berlin 887,633
  • Toronto 647,984
  • Vancouver 619,292
  • Victoria 461,933
  • Ottawa 167,469
  • Whistler 112,765
  • Regina 43,844
  • Bellingham 23,202
  • Burnaby 18,103
  • Blaine 13,008
  • Chilliwack 5,361
  • Coquitlam 4,478

Surprising that the ” ” were lower with SF and higher with NY but then New York is also a state. London and Paris no surprise. Berlin was. And the centre of the universe, Toronto, wasn’t that much higher than Toronto (but then maybe Vancouver also included Washington state’s Vancouver). Victoria with that many more pictures than Ottawa? It hurts that Bellingham beats out Burnaby. But at the bottom of the list Blaine beating out Chilliwack and Coquitlam? There goes the neighbourhood!

Mitch Joel from Twist Image presented Social Media Marketing and Web 2.0 today.

It started at 8:00 am and went to a little before 5:00 pm. It was a long day but it only seemed like a few hours. If you have never heard or seen Mitch Joel do yourself a favour and don’t miss him. This person has a passion with a capital ‘P’. He explains, teaches, provokes and doesn’t always agree with the audience but that passion shows every single minute. He is punctual and that again is with a capital ‘P’.
Of course the overhead wasn’t working at the beginning but we all received a bound handout of the 281 page presentation. These were not your typical PowerPoint bullet point ‘Captains of Industry’ presentation pages. And so we started without the tech apparatus and you didn’t feel you were missing anything. This presentation had a lot of punch with liberal use of the net and videos. He punctuated the necessary emphasis with choice language. If there was an easy way to make a point Mitch found it. When you came away you knew you had something to chew on for a long time. You can see the course outline at IAB Canada here.
What made this presentation different than the plethora of tech courses always offered? You always felt he was talking directly to you. Even if what he was presenting was already known, he made it feel ‘new’. We could have spent another day just in discussion about all that was presented. So when does the level two course on Social Media Marketing take place? We will all be back. And like you said Mitch, this is just the beginning.


What is MN2?


Today is the launch of our new DIY product, MemberNote 2. (We have had MemberNote for over 2 years now). As mentioned before, a long time ago, this is the 2nd version of the text/e-mail alert product that will send a message every-time you use your plastic card (ATM, Interac, & ATM queries – this is one of the major differences with MN2, we can alert you when there has been a request for a balance at an ATM. It is not necessarily transaction driven which seems to be a unique aspect of this product and allows us to develop with greater scope).
The development took much more time than we or CUCBC expected. There were some interesting elements that needed to be created to allow this.
So where do we go from here? We are compiling some interesting information on usage and demographics from the product. We have also found that whatever the explanation the best way for people to understand what it does is to use it. It has a pretty explosive WOW! factor once they see it in operation. The DIY component is a key hinge point for the product now and in the future. But how far will or can we take it? The infrastructure is in place to move it forward in whatever direction is deemed necessary. What we need to do is listen, listen, listen.
I have included a snapshot of the final DIY web interface. Sorry there isn’t a site to show you. You have to be a member and sign in to get that far.
PS Just a few days ago the idea came to the forefront – Can’t we text message people when they use the DIY page? Now whenever you change anything you get the message that it has been changed or if you are a new user there a welcome message. Isn’t small beautiful?


The core of good service – teamwork

One of the most important aspects of the credit union is the environment in which we work. There is no sense in fooling ourselves, without the best people we don’t have much of a hope of being a healthy credit union. All of our own work histories can easily point to jobs where it wasn’t much fun coming to work because the place was full of jerks and jerkesses. A key element in any workplace is teamwork. This is what makes the organization great instead of just good.

We speak of product, price and service with a sense that all three are commodities. Price certainly is the attribute of a commodity, product I will leave for another blog entry and service is what can really set the credit union apart from anyone else.

What makes an organization? The people. And service is the people who put that human envelope and character on your product. They deliver the product in the most vital of fashions, with the human aspect. The delivery of the product, the timing of the delivery of the product, the atmosphere in presentation of the product, the setting and the venue all point to peripherals of service. And teamwork is at its core.

With all great ideas come great execution. The ability to get things done for people in this business is very important. The execution comes when people work together for that common goal, to deliver great service. The ability to work towards that collective goal out of a sake of service and caring is a challenge to the “sales culture” which in fact by it’s nature of competitiveness can erode the “service culture”.

Our motto at work is “Where neighbours bank”. We work hard at making a difference. For example, and forgive me as this is a pet peeve of mine. line-ups. Ask anyone what they hate and it is a line-up. So why do we credit unions who pride ourselves as being member focused and service orientated allow habitual line-ups? I think it because we don’t have the teamwork in place to get rid of the line-up. We need to focus on the member and by making sure the line-ups are minimal or non-existent this gives adequate proof that we are. That is the ingredient that seems to be missing. People working together can accomplish much and there is a beauty in not being afraid to try something different. That difference in what you do will define who you are. That difference is teamwork and the delivery of great service. No job is too small or too unimportant for anyone in any organization to do. People notice that and isn’t that what the delivery of service is all about?

I love this picture of a group of employees at a high tech company. They look like a team. Maybe our next staff picture should be taken like this one.


BC Lions Fanfest

Yesterday I was out at the BC Lions FanFest in Abbotsford. This year we decided to purchase season tickets for the Lions so this was a great place to start, seeing the players and fans. There was a lot of things for the kids and it was just too bad it was raining.
My days with the Lions go back to 1963 when my cousin and I went to just about every game as members of the BC Lions Quarterback club. For 50 cents you got into every game with seats in the end zone. The view wasn’t always great but what did you now you were a kid. I remember one game with Calgary and Willie Fleming running from our 15 yard line right up the middle for a touchdown. They went to the Grey Cup lost and went again in 1964 to win it. Then in 1977 had seasons tickets when Jerry Tagge was winning games that they shouldn’t have. That was an amazing year. So the question this year is will they be able to repeat last year? Who knows. Going to the FanFest made winning not as important as it sometimes seems. You know you are getting old though when some of the players refer to you as ‘sir’. liona.jpg

Living your passion

Today was a very personal day and one that a father will always remember. Fleming had his convocation at Simon Fraser University and received his Bachelor of Arts as an English major. It was a happy moment for him after all that work. It is wonderful to see your son accomplish something he set out to do 4 years ago. It was an incredible learning experience for him, but it is only a start. He now moves on to Seminary in Saskatoon for another 3 years. Nils was happy when the mail arrived as his final payment came from the agency for all the work he did for the Mentos people. He had been waiting for over a month and now the funds will allow him to get his final business in order to move to Denmark in a few weeks. He had good news from his art show with a number of sales over the weekend. He also accomplished what he set out to do. Both of these young men are living what they want to do and the passion they have for art/theology/learning is apparent when you are with them. I have always told them since I can remember that it didn’t matter if they became sanitary engineers (garbage collectors) as long as they had a passion for it. There are just too many people in this world that are afraid to live their passions.

A very different book for right brainers

One of the most interesting books I have read in a long time is Daniel Pink’s – A Whole New Mind, moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. In it he states that up to now the left-brainers, the MBA types, were what society had and needed. In the future the right-brainers will be needed. He speaks about this in a very easy to read setting. He then goes on to say that there are six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfillment now depend. They are Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning.
Each of these aptitudes are explored in separate chapters. And each of them resonate strongly with some well thought out and extremely satisfying writing. He explores those areas that have up to now been tidbits of ones thinking. You knew ‘Story’ was important but Pink puts it in the terms you hadn’t completely thought of. ‘Meaning’ was discussed in light of Victor Frankl’s – Man’s Search for Meaning. (Everyone has read this right?) A Whole New Mind is a very positive book and you will come away with huge and various ideas to move your mind around. This book is dangerous. For example when he discussed design, it is stated that whatever the design, it is giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing. Thank you Daniel, that makes perfect sense and gives you something to chew on next time you step up to the plate thinking you might know something about design. He even gets into labyrinths.
Before you begin to have a long discussion with any left-brained type read this book. You’ll find so much more to what makes us human than just counting beans and widgets.


Today I had bad service, real bad service. One tends to overlook if someone has a bad hair day but this was not good. First the call centre had a menu system (push 3 for…push 4 for….)with no human contact and it was very difficult to navigate. When you finally found the cave you needed to be in you end up waiting. But can’t they just put musak on? Do they have to try to sell me everything that the conceivably have to offer? How annoying can that be — “If they wait, we advertise!”– I hung up, couldn’t take it anymore. Finally found another way to talk to them and gave all the information on who I was and what I wanted. Couldn’t help me right now, please phone back in 5 minutes. So I waited and phoned back and what do I get? — Voicemail — Now this is getting irritating. Left the message and after waiting for over an hour phoned back again. Someone answered and said the person I wanted to talk to was on lunch. BANG! That was it. I re-iterated my request and asked if there was a problem. The next voice I hear is the person I originally talked to. Finally. But then she asks me to repeat everything she supposedly took down before. Nothing had been done. Moral of the story – find somewhere else to deal and let your feet speak.