Originally published on CUInsight.com

Depending on the audience, I have a variety of secret lives. Here, my secret life is that of a credit union marketing partner. When working with CUs, I’m a secret ninja and industry blogger.

Now you’re wondering about the ninja part.

As a strategic partner, it is in everyone’s best interests to work closely together. A credit union is never “just another client”, whereas, we strive to never be “just another vendor”. Some of our relationship partners are real friends, and discussions can evolve beyond weather and sports into family. We are in it for the long term to help every partner (and individual staff/member) exceed their goals.

This is often not how we are received.

We understand. All of us have been in a business relationship that felt one-sided up-front or started out great, then fell apart over time. How can we know which to trust and which to cast away? Better off just keeping them all on a tenuous balance: Work together, but don’t share enough to give them any “power” over you. Ensure the contract protects you, then protect your members just the same.

Thing is, I can’t disagree with anything in the previous paragraph. Ensuring every member’s safety, privacy, and satisfaction is top priority, and nothing should ever compromise this approach. Yet your partners are how you expand member offerings, and any barriers you place can affect the member experience. Where’s the balance?

As part of our offerings, we assist credit unions to place landing pages on their sites linking to a partner portal for their members. The linked site is owned by a third-party, but contractually covered for privacy, due diligence…you name it. Despite this, some credit unions still pop up large warnings when navigating to the pages; we call them speed bumps. Not a great way to inspire confidence for your members.

None are doing this out of spite. All believe it is a requirement from NCUA, and their own counsel or examiner reiterates this idea. Hey, when the regulator says to do something, you don’t argue!

Trouble is, this is all based on a non-binding piece of guidance from 2003 (PDF). Remember the web back then? We all had sparkling unicorns and weather banners adorning our sites. Because, Internet! Given these were coming from unrelated third-parties, it made sense to inform your members of potential risks navigating there. Today, portals are custom sites designed specifically for the institution, with specifications laid bare in lengthy contracts. If that isn’t a trusted site, I don’t know what is. Even more odd, many credit unions have warnings when clicking the NCUA icon…or their loan application!

Each speed bump warning may seem innocuous, but they create falloff in member clicks, and generate suspicion in your members. “If my credit union doesn’t trust them, why should I?” It’s a valid question.

Whenever you engage in a partnership or contractual agreement, I believe it should be to each other’s benefit. Both parties gain equally and with mutual respect. If you ever feel that is not the case, it’s probably not a great partnership. Putting barriers in the way of these efforts tilts the balance of trust. If your MSRs were recommending a service, they wouldn’t say, “We have this great program, and it would be perfect for you, but be careful, since we don’t really trust them with any of your information.”

Why do it online?

Disclosure: Credit unions working closer with their partners may include my company. Therefore, I may benefit financially from their changes.