Originally published on CUInsight.com

Would this intro keep you reading?

This article will help your credit union advance their progress on digital transformation.

Yeah, probably not. In fact, I bet I lost some of you just with the implication. Doesn’t say much for my last post on digital transformation, eh? Oh well, perhaps you can share with them what they missed.

5 Years in 8 Months

We talk a lot about digital transformation. I get it. It’s something I’ve tried to keep top of mind for over a decade. And the need continues. Especially now.

You already recognize that 2020 moved us 5 years forward in digital expectations. Or 3. Or 10. The number doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that if you were lagging in December, you’re way behind today.

Transformation Loading Window

Are you stepping up to the challenge? Every credit union I speak to or work with is with a passion. They’re taking new member expectations seriously. The transition from branch-focused to ITM, app, and touchless tech is rapid.

So why does the title say it’s not about digital transformation?

Because it isn’t. Digital adaptation is just the most visible component. The rest is harder, but more important to your survival long-term. And yet, it’s what credit unions, at their core, should be best at achieving.

It’s the Mission, Everywhere

You already know all this. I’m just here to assemble it into a single section. To make it easy for reference…and inspiration (I hope!).

Consider this one geek’s manifesto to what he hopes our industry can become. Scratch that, what he knows our industry can become.

Credit unions claim to be a unique form of financial cooperative. Not-for-profit, member-owned, community-focused…you know the rest. So why do most people see it as just another bank?

To be clear, I’m not looking for a new “Open Your Eyes” campaign. I’m challenging you to be what that promotion says you are.

Over two years ago, I wrote a series of articles about the Credit Union Which Could Be. Immediately followed by Member Relationships Which Could Be, it challenged you to imagine, then make real, the best version of you.

So let’s take it to the next level, together.

The Credit Union That Should Be

Astronaut with American Flag on Moon
Think of this like your “moonshot”. And you already have the rocket.

We spent a lot of energy on what could be. After what we’ve seen economically and socially, it’s time to focus on what we should be. For everyone.

  • Making the credit union a place someone wants to work (props to a forgotten post on LinkedIn calling for CUs to become the “cool” new workplace opportunities). To build a career. To help others.
  • Standing up for the oppressed in society, both socially and financially.
  • Living the mission, whether in daily operation, hiring practices, or lobbying.
  • Lobbying. Yes, really. By supporting candidates who are good for members (ie. people), even if they still have more to learn about your regulatory goals.
    • That means not endorsing everyone who pledges to vote “no on CU taxation”.
  • Standing up against predatory lenders, and supporting policies to improve financial wellness, even if those affected aren’t your members. Because 1) they could be and 2) your mission doesn’t exclude people.
  • Providing innovative and traditional services through digital channels, while making your priority be authentic connections. Human to human. Whether it’s through Zoom, a plexiglass divider, or back in the world of “normality”.
  • Understand you are more than a place for people’s money. More than the “cheaper bank”. To be the institution for which people are proud to display their card. And on that point, give them awesome card options!
  • To do all this because they’re the right things to do, not because they may make the institution bigger or more powerful. Because when your shareholders are also members, your decisions must always benefit them.
  • Bring that obsession with societal benefit and inclusion into your core operation.
  • To expand financial access to those who thought they never had a choice…or the option. Because you know financial security raises communities.
  • Taking advantage of digital schooling to contribute your own financial literacy efforts straight into their “classroom”. By getting staff involved, because the human connection is essential.
    • Because when young people understand money, they can make better decisions that help them and others for a lifetime.

Normal Is Anything But

Butterflies Emerging from Crysalis
Change can be a good thing.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t take normal for granted. And sometimes, normal for you is awful for someone else. So we listen, learn, and change.

Because change is inevitable…and sometimes rapid.

The Community That Should Be

The great thing about being part of the credit union industry is that so much of what’s being asked of companies, governments, and people is already part of your mission.

To drive for inclusivity isn’t changing what you believe. It’s just being specific in achieving that goal.

To expand financial literacy, assistance, and long-term policies are all core to the cooperative principles.

As you look at the challenges in society, and the challenges within your own institution, it becomes apparent that the credit union which should be is also the community we want to become.

So get loud. Get active. Share your mission. Make it clear that your goals are society’s goals. Heck, for over two decades, this industry has taken real action to recognize that Black Lives Matter and address inequities in financial access.

The credit union movement was built by women. Yes, all the way back to that special day in Estes Park!

And credit unions work to ensure that who you are and who you love has no impact on your ability to enjoy all possible financial opportunities.

So Is Transformation Just Being True?

Handshake with Cooperation Words

We began this discussion thinking about how transformation was more than just digital. Yet now, it appears we came full circle. What makes credit unions special is that they’ve already made so much of this transformation.

Now it’s time to be authentic to your roots. Spread the word. Listen. And learn.

You know credit unions really are special. From MSR to collections agent to CFO, the mission needs to be top of mind and actionable at every level.

People love working for Apple, Patagonia, or REI (the largest cooperative) because of the culture and how they feel a part of contributing special things to the world. Your credit union is no different.

Be true to your mission and you’ll always be on the right side of history. Plus, you may just become known as the “cool bank” who treats people right.