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We are a culture of stories

November 15, 2007

It was interesting these last few days talking to people at the credit union about what is happening in their lives. It seems when you take care of people’s money they don’t mind discussing just about anything. There really is a trust established that you often neglect. They have plans they need to tell you, or what they are saving for or just life in particular. When you listen intently you begin to realize how important it is for them to tell you these things and equally how important it is for you to hear them.

You need time to have conversations like these and build relationships with every member. They have some fascinating things to say which you usually never hear when everyone is busy and lacks time. Are these cultures something that we value? If we do value them then with every merger there seems to be the aftermath that the culture has changed and not for the better. Is there an equilibrium established over time with members that constantly fosters this sometimes unknown aspect of credit unions? I believe there is. The problem is the ease in which it can disappear unless it is nurtured. Bottom line and only bottom line thinking is its greatest enemy because conversation and sharing can be viewed as non-productive. And that actually becomes funny – since when have any of us personally viewed conversations in a purely monetary sense.

Someone once said that our eyes are the windows to our souls. If that is the case, then those face to face discussions allow us to realize much more than we sometimes realize.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2007 4:08 pm

    This post reminds me of three things:

    1. I’ve been that person determined to tell my story (speaking to a mortgage broker). The desire to have a financial transaction *not* be reduced to movement of money is important – mortgages buy homes. Families live in homes.

    2. I’ve been the person listening to the story – the favorite part of my job at Wesabe. Context helps me help people, and not just answer questions about financial tools.

    3. We are fortunate to have so much good work to do.

  2. Jeffry Pilcher permalink
    November 15, 2007 6:12 pm

    I’m not suggesting that CU’s shamelessly exploit trusted relationships with thinly veiled sales pitcthes, but many of these conversations occur without CU employees suggesting ways in which the credit union might help members. Members will talk about having a baby, getting a divorce, planning to move, etc., while the CU employee listens intently and responds earnestly…but forgetting that those life-changing events might also come with real financial needs as well.

  3. November 16, 2007 10:25 am

    This brand of intimacy is one of the best ways for credit unions to really reveal the credit union difference. The common bond between our members puts us in a unique position to truly develop personal relationships. This, in my opinion, is one of the main reasons this industry is unquestionably special.

  4. November 17, 2007 12:44 pm

    This post, Gene, points to something that is at the heart of a CU’s strategy. For some members, the ability to have the kind of conversations you refer to will overcome any mistakes any your CU makes or any product shortcomings of your CU (ie. inferior rates or higher fees). These memberl value the conversation above all other factors.

    But not every member, Gene. Others (like myself) don’t want a conversation or a “relationship.” So fine, you say, your CU won’t go after me as a member, because I don’t value what your CU does best.

    But here’s the $64k strategic question: Are there enough — and a growing — amount of people out there who want the conversation?

    If not, a lot of CUs are going to be in trouble.

  5. tinfoiling permalink*
    November 20, 2007 9:58 pm

    Ron – you are right it is the $64K question. There also needs to be additional strategies in place. We’ve opted to add value with technical innovation to products. You need to have a long term view of your involvement and participation in the community. You need to have a professional and hard working staff. The list goes on. I am afraid that a lot of CU’s are going to have problems because they only count on a loyalty, conversation strategy.

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