What happens when you hang around a water cooler

Coming back from the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Indianapolis on Saturday I began to try to piece everything together. If you have never attended, it is an event that really stretches your outlook on what the credit union movement means to so many different people.

There was an underlying theme that we needed to pay attention to our membership and move away from the constant rehearsal of paying attention to ourselves. The culture of each credit union should be directed by the board who are representatives of our membership. That being the case our cultures are dictated by our members. We need to be inclusive but not necessarily homogeneous. We include everyone in a common bond but that doesn’t make us ‘all things to all people all of the time’. ¬†And in this lies the difficulty.

By having a common bond it made credit unions easier to be part of the free market system. Are those that use credit unions understanding that a free market association creates challenges for us to remain a financial community of sorts. If they are only there for the “free chequing” what does it matter that credit unions have a social conscience?

The Symposium allows everyone to think and discuss issues that are relevant today and tomorrow. But we tend to get bogged down in the ‘good old days’ stuff and need those dialogues to bring us forward, screaming and kicking, into the future. The credit union I work for supports this event because this is one of the few remaining places where we can discuss the emerging culture of credit unions. We can begin to formulate what this will look like.

We do need a Manifesto or Accord sometimes when the dust settles. I would offer a few points.

1. The movement needs to reconcile that it is multi-generational. All contribute to the end result.

2. Credit Unions are formed with many dimensions. It is not all marketing, not all management, not specific to one domain. We are defining a new language for what we are and what we do. That takes time.

3. We are generalists that have been formed from exceptions not norms.

So just wait until next year when we go at it again.