Credit Unions: Bringing Sexy Back

I admittedly didn’t know what exactly to expect from a conference whose centerpiece was a gurgling water receptacle. I attended the Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium (CUWCS) based on a recommendation from my friend Andy Janning, and as it turned out, a couple other folks from my credit union were going as well. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I went, how cool the conference was, how much I appreciate the organizers, and how stoked I am when I think about continuing the dialogue that began in that Mac-infested room. The next few blog posts here will likely reflect on various ideas and themes from the CUWCS.

Robbie Wright (CUInnovators.com) opened the sessions with a discussion of credit unions being sexy. Yes, cringing credit union readers, sexy. I realize that by using the word sexy two times (three now) that I’ve already lost half my readers (or have I gained some?). I really liked Wright’s presentation for a number of reasons. It was one of those presentations where I could tell that Robbie didn’t really care so much if we agreed with every nuance of every point he made, but rather, he wanted us to think about it.

As an aside, that’s one of those things that those of us who are presenters and credit union advocates need to do a better job at. Too often we need our listeners to fully agree, and even adore, the position we’ve taken on an issue instead of being excited about the fact that whether they agree with us or not, they’re mentally engaging the subject matter. Really, we should take disagreement as a sign of success, because we’ve gotten folks to care enough and mentally invest enough to disagree. In fact, that’s one of the trends I liked about the whole conference. Opposing viewpoints were expressed, and everybody was cool with it. There didn’t seem to be a lot of ego in the room, but a perfect dose of appropriate irreverence was noticeable. But I digress.

I hope the attendees didn’t miss Robbie’s point amidst ogling pictures of David and Victoria Beckham. He made a statement that stuck with me, and actually sent my mind wandering in a dozen directions. He implied that the sexy stuff in our world could and should be the simple, everyday stuff like having nice facilities, interacting with each other well, etc.

In other words, healthy credit union culture is sexy.

You know that feeling you have about your significant other? The one that makes you feel like, though you might have disagreements, you still click? That’s how members and employees (we too often forget the employee piece of this) should feel about both their credit union and the credit union movement. We have to do a far better job of understanding who we are and what our movement is about. People can’t be passionate about that which they don’t adequately understand.

Further, without really engaging the culture question on both a macro and micro level, the rest of what was discussed at the CUWCS will amount to little more than window dressing. An awesome website and amazing social media strategy will in the end ring hollow with unengaged employees and members who don’t really get what we’re about. Instead, we need to give our people a compelling context within which to function, and potential members a compelling reason to join our tribe.

I’d like to think that credit union advocates are credit union advocates because we have a bit of a heretical edge to us. We’re different from the norm, and we like that. Ideas that we (should) cling to are scoffed at by other financial institutions. Fine. Let ‘em scoff. While they’re scoffing, we’re conducting meaningful business in a way that helps people and communities.

So let’s bring sexy back. Let’s work on the simple things that make a huge difference to our internal and external members. And let’s hope that at the next CUWCS someone (I’m looking at you, James Robert Lay of CUSWAG fame) puts together a music video to the tune of the Justin Timberlake song.

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