Learn Marketing & Strategy Insights, You Will.

Author: Joe Winn (Page 1 of 77)

Speaker, educator, and all-around awesome geek serving the credit union world. Identifying and overcoming emerging challenges within the industry. Also, being a secret ninja. And a Jedi.

Get Up & Change Your View

Originally published on CU Insight.

This is one of those articles that make little sense if you don’t consider the publication date.

2019? “Huh, I mean, obviously.”

2025? “Oh, they’re talking about those dark times. Things are so fantastic now, it’s almost hard to remember!” (Hopefully)

2020? “Go out? Ha! You Zoom-hack our meeting with many clever jokes!”

Here in mid-2021, I hope the topic will land on understanding minds.

2020 Was Unique for Everyone

Each of us had a different experience through the pandemic. Some made radical changes to lifestyle, with stressors increasing, family dynamics strained, and finances depleted. Others had the “pleasure” of adapting to work from home (hi Zoom!) with social lives crushed.

In my case, little changed. I’ve been WFH for nearly a decade, and 98% of business interactions are over the phone or Zoom. Yes, we were the ones explaining the system to credit union staff before you had to do the same with your parents.

Sharing the Sameness

Cat on Sofa
Do you ever really “share” a sofa with a cat?

So I’m used to my immediate environment being constant. Which was both a gift and a, well, you know the rest. At first, the realization that others were facing what I considered normal spurred a creative rush. It was a perfect time to share how I’ve made it work for me.

Remember all those videos and articles? My Jedi robes? Creative they were, mmm? Mmmm?

Something was Happening

During the year, a change slowly progressed, consciously unnoticed. My creativity was lagging. We still put together interesting ideas for business, and I continued to get a few more articles out. But most of it was tweaking existing material to fit changed norms.

While this was all necessary, it shouldn’t have been the bulk of my effort. Why the shift? I’d attribute it to all of 2020. With a wealth of stressors, political insanity, health scares, and a restricted social circle, it’s the excuse to beat all excuses.

When you’re operating in crisis mode all the time, you’re not at your best.

No one should ever have to apologize for how they made it through 2020. You’re still here? Congratulations. And encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated.

It wasn’t until this week that I recognized the change. Why?

Other Humans!

Joe Winn Pulling Child on Board Through Surf
As hard as it looks. As fun for the smaller person as it looks.

Long-time readers will recall my visits to nephews. They love space, science, the ocean, and calling me “Uncle Joe”…a lot. (I’m not complaining!)

For the first time in forever, I’ve visited them again. Sure, I’ve been to Disney and Universal since the pandemic started, but that’s an exercise in schedules, wait times, and distancing from other people. A relaxed connection with others it is absolutely not.

This was a full-on life with a beloved family. A change of people and scenery from when you wake up to fall asleep. For someone who loves traveling and visiting friends as much as me, not having this for over a year was rough.

And the waterfront home doesn’t hurt. These sentences were written to the sight and sound of waves gently flowing against rock walls and wooden docks. Songbirds are celebrating the flowering trees, and destructive yet adorable rabbits bound about the yard.

In the realm of “changing your environment”, this is about the best you can do.

“Oh, hello unique thoughts.”

Person Writing in Notebook in Park
Let the pen (or keyboard) flow!

When you’ve sat in the same home, using the same desk (or sofa, or futon, or bed, or kitchen table) to complete your work, it’s easy to get mentally stuck. And we all know that innovation comes out of change. Which is really difficult to create when nothing changes.

The first day of working here (in a spinning round couch with a view to the water), I finished an entire Learning Library article. That’s unheard-of speed for me. And that’s between when the kids left for and returned from school.

Then there’s this tale, which I only began about an hour ago. It’s no core conversion, but I’ll take the progress!

Lessons from the Beach House

Sunrise Over Water
That’s a sunrise. A very-early annular eclipse sunrise, to be precise!

You’ve dealt with a lot. I don’t know your specifics, but it’s only now returning to some sense of, hopefully, better normal. To me, the trip was a delightful wake-up call (or was that the kids?). Maybe there’s some realizations you can glean from my experience:

  • Acknowledge your compromise
    • In some way, you’ve been off the 100% best version of yourself. It’s ok. Now’s when we can help get it back.
  • Get up
    • Yes, right now. Stand up. Do some stretches and breathing exercises. Walk around. It’s not just your watch telling you the value of movement. It really does help “get your juices flowing.”
  • Change your environment
    • If you can sit in front of a body of water, do that. If not, find something different to make your brain go, “oh, that’s neat; haven’t seen it in a while…or ever.”
  • Disconnect
    • Just for a bit, get away from your phone (you can keep your watch on for critical notifications), and let your mind wander. Free dissociation isn’t being “spaced out”, but rather, “connected to the world.” Take that as you will.

In a recovery run, you aim to reclaim what was lost. During your slow journey to “normal”, live in a state of open recovery. And be kind to yourself and others.

Let Your New Ideas Flow

Crayon Box with Child Drawing
Give a kid crayons, paper, cardboard, scissors, tape, etc. And then just watch.

For me, interacting outside my “pandemic bubble” was a welcome shock. Part of what makes a recovery run so interesting is that you often don’t realize what you’ve lost until you get it back. This is about running and also not about running.

Connecting with others helped me connect with myself. And getting up to change my view made all the difference.

How will you unleash your great new ideas?

Featured image credit: My nephew, after he took his mom’s iPhone.

Is Your Credit Union Delivering Hi-Res (Lossless) Value?

Today, Apple announced (after months of rumors) some big improvements to music streaming. Starting in June, your favorite songs will sound a lot better. And this absolutely relates to your credit union (when don’t I make the connection?).

Apple iPhone Hi-Res Music
Image credit: Apple

Skip the audio explanation if you must. You’re missing out, but I understand the need to get right to the point. I’ll help you identify what your credit union should be doing to ensure the value you create is recognized. For everyone else, let’s sing!

What’s in a Song (File)?

(The not-too-technical dive into how music works on your phone, iPod, or even CD collection)

So here’s the basics on digital audio, from a guy who puts way too much time into his music quality (When Circle of Life blows your socks off, everything’s just right):

  • Most services stream music at “near-CD quality”, which has some technical numbers surrounding bitrate (how big the file is), bit depth (difference between quietest and loudest sounds available), and frequency (amount of times per second the amplitude is sampled). Don’t worry about that stuff.
  • This quality means a lot of the original information is thrown away, but it still sounds good because engineers are really smart about only tossing the parts of the file we can’t hear too easily.
  • Whether you use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, or another “standard” service, a typical stream or file is 256kbps (bitrate), 16-bit, 44.1KHz. You can go a little up or down, depending on data usage or service, but that’s close enough.
  • Hi-Res (specifically Lossless) audio aims to capture every piece of the original recording. It does so by bumping up each of those values. Bitrate goes up about 5x, depth to 24-bit, and frequency to 192KHz (usually).
  • But that’s just the technical side, and I can guarantee your speakers aren’t good enough for you to notice much of a difference from just those changes.

You may be wondering, “why bother?” if I just explained that few people will ever hear anything. Great question. It’s also one the music services considered, so they’re not just bumping up the raw audio quality. They’re also adding value.

Your Music. All Around.

Crowd and Stage Lights at Concert

Full disclosure: I wrote that headline before seeing that Apple wrote…hmm, the same thing. Something about “great minds”?

When you have more room to put audio information, it’s worth considering what you can do beyond making that cymbal crash just a tiny bit more realistic. Imagine being at a concert (remember those?). How did it feel?

If it was a great venue and the band (and sound engineers) were top-notch, you had a special experience. Their music didn’t just come from right in front of you. Nor did it sound like it was only blasted from their loudspeakers.

The music arrived as a series of individual sounds, woven together in an intricate pattern. The drums were “behind” the lead vocals, while the bass hung out on the “side”. The rhythm guitar kept things moving on the other end.

Building a Soundstage

Audio Mixer
Adjust the dials of your own member value offerings.

You hear music aficionados describe the “soundstage” of great recordings as they review headphones, speakers, and amplifiers. My Sonos systems are especially adept at doing this. (Yes, that was a promo for them. Sorry not sorry.)

Listen to some Beatles songs and you’ll notice their skill at creating a soundstage. Each of the Fab Four can be heard harmonizing or playing from a different “position” in the song. And though some were remastered, a lot of it came from 60s tech!

Of course, for that to work, you have to be planted in front of a high-end system, or, wearing premium headphones. Not to mention the source music has to be great. Or, there’s some new options in town.

Dolby Atmos

Most of the time, you hear about this for action films and shows. A typical surround system has 5.1 speakers (three in front, two in back, and a subwoofer). This gives you sound all around you in a single plane.

A Dolby Atmos system goes one more dimension, with, say, 5.1.2. That extra two would represent a pair of speakers which create an “above you” sensation. Instead of a helicopter flying from behind to in front, it could be hovering directly overhead.

Apple Music is adding Dolby Atmos to millions of songs. Which means your music, when using supported headphones and speakers, can sound like it’s coming from all around. And that’s not their only treat.

Spatial Audio

Headphones on Books
Image credit: Sound On from Pexels

This one I lament not having been able to try. Anyone want to get me the AirPods Max? I’ll even give you a shoutout!

Spatial Audio is an Apple-exclusive feature that has been described as, “you have to experience it.” In essence, what you hear is “locked in space” no matter how you move around. The sensors in your headphones keep track to manage the sound field.

In a sense, it’s like Dolby Atmos that follows you around.

That doesn’t sound too exciting, but every person who’s used it says it’s amazing. It’s also coming to the HomePod (which doesn’t go on your head), so this Sonos user is crossing his fingers for non-Apple speaker support!

Anyway, that kind of immersion is coming to Apple Music as well. Another piece of value, that not accidentally will also help sell more of their compatible products.

Member Value at Your Credit Union

Group of Hands in Center
Bringing people together for good.

How does this whole audio exploration and announcement relate to your credit union operations? Perfect question. Because you deserve to sound your best! Ok, not just that. It’s about how you frame the value of being a member.

I deliberately skipped the most important part of the Apple Music announcement:

They’re providing all these new capabilities for every existing subscriber. Even with this new stuff, the subscription price will remain the same.

They added value to the experience. Just like you do all the time at your credit union. Think back over the past year:

  • How many things did you set up to make your members feel safe, connected, and empowered?
  • Did you raise fees or interest rates to provide these new services and capabilities?
  • Would you say your credit union in 2021 is a better place to achieve your financial goals than your credit union in early 2020? Or 2019?

I can guess the answers to that last bullet. Would your members say the same? Have you communicated these improvements so they understand the value you deliver?

Just Doing It May Not Be Enough

Idea Bulbs and Strategy Gears Equal Growth
Take your ideas, add a strategy, assess the results.

Your credit union made a lot of adaptations and improvements to weather the pandemic. It also has a history of continuous service across all offerings. I know because I checked your CU history page. Yes, for your credit union.

Creating a better place for your members to save, borrow, learn, and protect is your mission. But it’s not how you make those things happen. That requires some sort of marketing or outreach.

If you improve various credit union services, but your members don’t know, did they really get better? It’s a strange question, yet so much of your ongoing success is bundled into perceptions (what have you done for me lately).

Say you have a great new platform for automating savings day to day. That’s wonderful, and is a direct answer to the seamless ability of many fintech apps and big banks. But there’s one problem: No one knows it exists. Is it still so impressive?

Enhancing Value & Marketing…Together

Turntable and Laptop
Let’s learn about marketing on vinyl. It always sounds better, right?

Here’s one place Apple has a leg up on you. Ok, on all of us. They don’t need to market (though they still do, quite a bit). Others are happy to talk up their latest actions (I recognize the irony here).

If you don’t have major media, bloggers (hello), YouTubers, and specialist sites writing about your services, this section is important. Because it means your marketing needs to be a source of information.

You create value for members. That’s perfect. Now, you need to tell your members about that new (or existing) value. How you do that depends. Maybe an app notification. Perhaps a home page mention. Could even be a physical letter.

I’m a fan of combined marketing outreach to engage across a variety of mediums. That way, your physical connects to your social feed and more.

Whatever channels you choose, the message needs to directly address one of two things:

  • Pain
  • Pleasure

The first is overcoming a member pain. In other words, something they don’t enjoy or want. Your value is in replacing that pain with, well, not pain. The second is creating immediate or anticipatory pleasure. I’m giddy with excitement!

As an example, making it easy for members to avoid fees is addressing a pain, the pain of paying. Offering a savings tool that runs automatically is addressing a (future) pleasure, where members are looking forward to what they can do with that money.

Create Your Own Hi-Res Value

From car buying services to new app features, you have a wide range of ways to deliver value. Look at your own data to see what valuable capabilities are going unused. Then, show members how they can further enhance their relationship.

And where it makes sense, partner or build your next great value-add. I look forward to hearing (get it?) about your credit union’s newest hi-res value!

Privacy: A Guide for People (Part 2 – Things You Can Do)

Originally published on CUInsight.com

The previous part of our Privacy discussion covered your devices and regular activities on them. Cookies, ads, and what’s changing in this realm. Plus, we looked at how norms are shifting to more data sharing.

With the overnight explosion in work-from-home, many of those practices became commonplace. Services like Zoom got themselves caught on the wrong side of the privacy conversation. And then made the right efforts to get better.

Some of the places your data goes have your best interests in mind. Others…less so. This post will cover some of those technologies for credit unions, while also exposing some risks you may not know about.

Of course, we’ll discuss options to protect your data and self (sadly, some of this is used to control and instill fear in others).

Let’s start with the network you’re using.

Wifi Networks

Wifi Icon

When on public wifi networks, consider everything visible. Your banking connection might be encrypted, but some data can still be seen if someone is “watching” network activity.

Surprise, there’s a solution for it! A technology called VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your traffic and “tunnels” it through trusted servers. Now no one can see anything you do online.

Since all your traffic goes through their systems, it’s good to trust the provider. I use Windscribe, a company out of Canada that is well-reviewed by those in the know. Plus, their marketing is stellar.

You can use a VPN on any connected device, so desktop or mobile activities can be private.

Ironically, LTE (and 5G for some) traffic is among the most secure in our country. If you don’t trust the wifi (Name: “FreeWifiConnectNow”), don’t have a VPN, and need to do some banking, just use LTE.

Other Privacy Challenges

The original draft of this post then went into depth on a really scary kind of location tracker: the license plate scanner. It’s really a discussion upon itself. When I have time, I’ll give it the treatment it deserves.

The rest of this post shares challenges as well as opportunities for your credit union, then further expose privacy risks we can mitigate.

Data Sharing

Between Open Banking and the general expectation of users, you’re under higher obligation to share data than ever before. And that doesn’t include what your members share on their own!

Red and White Puzzle Pieces Fit Together
How does this data and your privacy fit together?

How are we ever going to keep this stuff locked-down?

If you’ve been an honorary geek for any length of time (ie. one of my dedicated readers!), you’ll recall our conversations on data breaches and security. Many, many tweets about it, too.

To answer the question: Most of the time, you guys do a great job with security! It’s everyone else causing issues. Can I get an, “I know, right?”


So there’s a few forms of data sharing. The first is really blatant. It’s when you provide your card number to a merchant to buy something. If it’s in person, I hope you’re using the chip (EMV) or contactless (NFC, like Apple Pay or the card itself). Why? Go here. Read it.


Security in that form is tough, because you’re depending on the merchant. And that’s where most “breaches” occur, costing your institution time and money (though consumers seem to consider it normal now).

It’s not normal. It doesn’t have to be a regular occurrence. Now that the tech is available, the challenge is in member education.

API Access

Shaking Hands in Front of Globe

Chances are, you have at least one connection to some financial service using an API (Application Programming Interface). These are secured links between systems that don’t require sharing passwords.

The handshakes that happen are in the background. It’s like “Log in to this site with Facebook”. You don’t give them your Facebook credentials; you just say “sure, share my data.” (Those have their own privacy implications…)

Your members are used to this type of system. If you present your own solution, they’ll use it (assuming it promises and delivers on a value proposition).

Trusted partners will have strict controls on what they can do with the data you send to them. I’m sure that was decided during the agreement stage.

Having a standardized process for this is at the core of Open Banking. Yes, it will let members connect banking data to other, perhaps cooler, platforms. Yet they’re still with you. And your institution can market this easy integration.

Privacy & Functionality

Data is the new currency. Companies want it. And with the technologies of today (and tomorrow), they can gather more of it than ever before.

Your goal is to help maintain your members’ privacy and security, while also engaging them through interesting personalized experiences.

Risks From Outside

Sometimes, ok, most of the time, the privacy risks to your credit union and members come from outside. There’s not much you can do about them besides being aware, having good security policies, and educating members.

But there is one thing every hacker wants…access to your device. What are the two best tools to prevent this?

  1. Biometric authentication (TouchID or FaceID)
  2. Long passcode only you know

Yeah, that means not sharing access. It also means never sharing passwords (I’m referring to those streaming services logins you absolutely never give to family and friends).

Whether directly or remotely, hackers long to access your information (be it financial, personal, or business). Locking down your phone and computer is your best first line of defense.

Sometimes the “hacker” isn’t a hacker, but someone close to a member. They may install software called “stalkerware” that tracks usage and activities, just as much as any other hack. Go here to get tips for detecting and removing these programs.

This is a concern for people escaping abusive relationships. It also can be a disgruntled (possibly) former employee attacking your computers.

Do they have deep access to your systems? Can they plug devices into your computers and add/remove data? Think of every spy movie character plugging the thing into the network to download all those blinking folders.

You don’t want that. Lock down your systems so this kind of data extrication cannot occur. (but don’t get too aggressive, or employees will resort to less secure means of moving files).

Here’s a company which might make you a bit more eager to lock down your social media accounts. Surprise, surprise, they got hacked.

Clearview AI Facial Image Hack

Face Detection Digital

Here’s a scary and timely hack (based on when I wrote this piece) I hope never happens again. Though, given the information is already out, does it even matter? Yes, yes it does.

A company called Clearview AI was just minding their own business, providing quality services to other companies…sorry, none of that is true. Here’s what they were doing:

Stealing all photos of your face visible online. Then keeping them in their own systems permanently. Even when you deleted your copies on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or elsewhere, they had you saved.

Already, that’s…not great. It gets worse. They sell this image data (with associated AI recognition capabilities) to law enforcement, governments, and, oh, yeah, banks.

Presumably, it’s used to match your identity to photos of unknown people. For what reasons? To find wanted people, sure. To discover those who aren’t paying the loans? Your guess is as good as mine.

The hack? Their entire client list was stolen. So while there’s no way to remove your photos from their system, someone else has access to who they’ve sold them to.

What You Can Do

In this case, your strategy is just empowering members with clear and concise information. Then share pieces of a regularly-updated guide on maximizing safety and security online and in the real world.

Include mention of privacy settings on social media, the potential risks of friending people you don’t know, and the typical “your credit union will never ask for any personal information”.

Keep Dark Web In Mind

For your own institution’s protection, realize some of your member data might be on the Dark Web. Brainstorm the most effective and unobtrusive ways to verify member activity and identity.


PS – Make sure security questions never include maiden names, pets, street/city where you were born, or first car. Embrace 2FA and answers to questions that are less likely to be found in public record searches. Say, favorite movie or breakfast. Again, be creative! (Yes, these are vulnerable to social engineering, but it’s a start.)


Privacy Talks Continue

These two posts may have felt like a lot. And you’d be right. But it’s still just the beginning. I could talk about nothing else on here and stay busy. I won’t, because there’s more to cover.

Just keep these ideas in mind and ensure they are built into your mission, so it’s always considered.

You have your member’s trust. Use it wisely and share your own wisdom to help them live safer, more productively, and happier.

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Image credit: Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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