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Not All Change is the Same – Credit Union Edition

Originally published on CUInsight.com

How often do you hear advice suggesting you “make a change” or “step out of your comfort zone”? There’s a reason…consistency might be easier, safer, and reliable, but it doesn’t promote growth. Making a change is good, if it’s in the right direction, for the right reasons.

Yet not all change is the same. And that’s ok. So how do we make sure our diligent effort produces the best (or any) results? By understanding the kind of change you need.

Away Means Different Things

Joe Standing on Rocks
Joe following a 30 year tradition of climbing rocks.

Regular readers know I love to travel, especially to see friends who happen to live in really cool places. They’re no longer off-limits (thank you thank you thank you vaccine researchers and nurses!). Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise!

My last post came from the seaside deck of a Rhode Island home. I had a lot to say about creativity being driven by a change of scenery. Perhaps after all our time stuck in the same environments, variety is a hot topic. Consider this, “change stuff, part 2.”

Since that trip, I’ve done more traveling! Crazy, I know. When in RI, I can count on connecting with kids, participating in impromptu art projects, and riding around in Teslas. Really, it’s a tough life. And the inspiration I get from the experiences are unique.

Last month, I reconnected with one of my best friends. She lives with her boyfriend and foster rabbit north of Atlanta. They’re child-free, big on hiking, RVing across the country, kayaking, boating, and cars that go fast while making satisfying noises.

Young Deer
As seen on one of our trails.

It’s a vastly different environment. Their neighbor even built a Miata race car! (I was able to ride along, which was a blast) We also had the chance to go on longer hikes through nearby National Park sites, see deer, and jet boat around on big lakes. More change, totally different.

You Get What You Experience

Each of these trips provided a separate set of insights. For the former, well, you saw my writeup. From the latter, I had less “downtime”. Whether playing complex and awesome board games or learning how to engineer a solar system into an RV, we were always active.

Turns out, I needed a bit of this, too. Sure, I didn’t sit down on my computer and draft out posts as much (maybe not exactly ideal), but we were tending to bonds built over many years. Had I gone with the same expectations of seeing nephews, I’d have been really disappointed.

It’s a bit like traveling to Disney (which I also did in this span). No one goes there to “relax and settle down for a while”, as much as their marketing might imply you can. Many know the feeling of needing a vacation from that vacation. Still fun, just totally different.

Joe and X-Wing
Stay on target.

Be open to getting the most out of every experience while pushing expectations aside. Now I’m starting to sound like my Tai Chi instructor. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Right Change. Right Place. Right Time.

Each day, I read articles about credit union evolution, digital transformation, and emerging competition. Most of these pieces miss the point, which I touched upon way back in 2016. Exponential change means these ideas are already outdated.

It would be like me traveling to visit my nephews expecting to engage with them as they were during my last visit…18 months earlier. Or planning to do the same things with friends, even though they moved from one side of the country to the other.

Or, what any Disney person can understand: Planning to do a theme park with a set schedule for every attraction, show, and food stop. I point and laugh at those people. That’s too stressful, and it’s just not going to happen. Things will change, and you’ll have to adapt.

Start With Your Need

The best industry articles encourage leaders to focus on the mission, understand their staff and members, and recognize the needs. Individual product choices, marketing decisions, and strategy plans follow from this analysis. (We do the same with potential and existing clients.)

Passionflower and Bee
Keep your goal in focus.

What’s the change you need to serve your need? Sure, credit unions are evolving. So is everything else. How can you best evolve to meet the needs of your members today, tomorrow, and maybe next year (looking ahead really is hard with exponential change)?

For example, tackling your digital transformation is essential. But, deciding to add a chatbot because it makes your service better for “young people” or “on the go” is the wrong approach. Just ask Anne Legg of THRIVE, who specializes in that data side of things.

Looking at your services lineup and coming to the conclusion, “there’s just not enough member choice”…well, that’s likely not a great formula, either. Rick Leander at LFB Holdings understands that more progress can come from subtraction, not addition.

Find the change that gets your institution on the path it needs. Is that from insights gained while watching the sea roll by in the Northeast? Or more literally, found on a trail in a National Park? Maybe the bustle of Disney provides the right kind of change.

Next time you’re looking to make changes at your credit union, approach them from a range of perspectives to ensure they’re both the right things and for the right reasons. Because goodness knows change is only going to continue.

That might seem a bit outside your comfort zone. Perfect, you’re already on the right road.

GameStop Saga Is An Enormous Education Opportunity

By now, you’ve likely heard about the “battle” between the “regular people” of WallStreetBets on reddit and the “industry” of hedge funds. GameStop, a struggling retail store, found themselves in the middle of a crazy event.

Put simply, a bunch of people in that subreddit group noticed that the GameStop stock (among some others) was heavily shorted. Without going into details, it means people were betting on the share price to fall.

And it wasn’t just a little bet; the exposure was massive (over 100% of the shares, which is legal and possible).

Short Squeeze – Putting on the Pressure

So this online community made a plan to take on the Goliath of hedge funds. They would collectively buy up shares of GameStop. This makes bets that it will fall go south. In fact, it means the hedge funds are on the hook for paying the difference.

This is why shorting stocks is an extremely risky strategy that you should only do if you really understand what’s happening.

What they did is called a “short squeeze”, and it put the pressure on the hedge funds to sell out of their shorts. To do so, they end up buying back the shares, making the stock price rise again.

Since shorts are the traditional market in reverse, the “crash” it caused made the price go up. Thus, the crazy begun.

Get the (Stock) Info

Plenty of great sites have entertaining and informative analyses of the whole episode. By the time this is published, they’ll be more, as I’m sure it will change by the minute. So I’m not going to go into any more detail here.

Education Opportunity

What matters for us in the credit union world is the exposure. People are talking about the stock market. It has memes galore. It’s trending on every social media network. People. Are. Interested. In. Stocks.

So take advantage of this opportunity! Advance your mission of financial literacy and education (and get a bit more member cred) by talking about it.

  • Help members understand what is happening
  • Show them how they could do the same (responsibly)
  • Connect them with your own investment solutions or advisors
  • Create mini-quizzes to present stock concepts
  • Let members discover “what kind of investor are you?” through questions

You have your member’s attention. Use it for good.

Let Me Explain

To make it easier, I said most of this in a video. Watch, learn, share, and act!

Geek Representation

Yes, that is most definitely a Weeping Angel on my shirt. Don’t Blink.

A Messenger Conversation of Financial Guidance, CUs, and Puns

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A few days ago, a friend asked me a favor. Since I’m a “financial expert” (Um, really? Oh boy.), she asked me to speak with her friend about credit card options. The other person had a challenging credit history with little financial knowledge at all.

A Facebook Messenger request later, and the chat began. My goal was probably familiar to those of you working with members:

  • Identify her challenges
  • Focus on her goals
  • Educate on her options
  • Develop a knowledge base she could build upon
  • Provide tangible actions she could take right now

Going in, she was open to learning, guidance, and had a good grasp of what she didn’t know. Maybe not common, but refreshing. 

I should also make clear: This entire conversation occurred over text on my phone only. Consider that as we look to digital solutions for all member engagements.

Since the conversation was for her, why not format the article about it the same way?

Challenges

Pushing Stone Uphill

Her story is one you will recognize. She made some poor financial decisions in the past (through lack of understanding, financial need, or immaturity). As a result, she had a poor credit score. Even worse, she saw the score as a scarlet letter.

“No shame. No judgement,” was my reassurance. You’re making great decisions now. That’s what matters.

On top of that, a common challenge across society: Family history of financial mismanagement and stress. Bravely, she claimed, “I want to break the cycle and not have to stress about any of [it].”

Beyond the poor credit score, she felt she didn’t know much about financial matters. Not quite true, since she understood the importance of carrying no credit card balance, finding a rewards card, and avoiding fees.

The biggest challenge was her feelings towards what she felt she didn’t know.

Goals

Path Up Mountain

First and foremost, her goal was to rebuild her credit. Seeing the current score made her upset. Beyond that, it limits opportunities that may emerge.

Accomplishing the first tied into the second: Get a good credit card. In my mind, there was no question her best bet was with a credit union. Lower rates (if necessary) and more accepting approvals drove the decision. Given where she lives, I had a good idea of where I’d suggest.

Options

You know that just signing up a member with a particular service may not be the best approach. If they don’t understand why it is their best choice, loyalty or trust won’t develop. So it was time to evaluate and discuss options.

The chosen credit union has a few different credit cards, and I gave her the opportunity to review the first two. I honestly don’t know which she would get approved to carry. The important points:

  • No annual fee (unless you get insane rewards, this is totally unnecessary)
  • Low interest rate (ongoing, not just some promo period)
  • Low minimum credit limit (better chance to get approved)
  • Possibility for rewards (incentive to use the card, helping credit score)

Knowledge

Brain

Here’s where I got into “Credit Union Geek” mode. After wondering how to apply, it was time to explain what a credit union really is. Focusing on the member-owned and not-for-profit differences from banks, her response:

“I always wondered what the true difference was. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. Makes sense why people have their accounts there versus the big [banks].”

I still believe people make decisions based on what the institution can offer them; a clean and functional app, competitive financial products, easy support if needed. However, the “credit union difference” can be the “cherry on top” for marketing efforts.

So now she knows what credit unions are, a basic history of the movement, and what that means for her. She’s sold. Now, as Tony Robbins would say, “take immediate action.”

Action

Clapper with Blurred Chalk

It’s easy to just put stuff off for another time. And then the impetus goes away. We get lazy. Other distractions emerge. To make serious changes in her financial life, she has to do at least one thing right now.

  1. Join Suncoast Credit Union. Yes, my company works with them. It’s a great relationship. Their members also seem to love them. So why not refer?
  2. Use our financial literacy platform. My company offers Learn4Saving freely to financial institutions for their members. If it can help her, perfect!
  3. Connect with Suncoast’s dedicated financial guidance counselors. They have a team trained to help with financial challenges or just answer questions.
  4. Use my “inside connections” and speak to a certain team to get started. Hey, feels special having a dedicated extension to dial when you’re just starting out!
  5. Begin “paying yourself first”. That new savings account is a good place to start.
  6. Build a basic budget. It can be simple, just something that helps you identify where money flows once it’s in your hands. Especially now, too much is unpredictable to bother getting really specific, and what value does that even add?
  7. Deal with my many puns. Somehow, this was well-received. I try not to take “credit” for my skills. And I’ll be “saving” plenty more for another article. You could even say I’m “budgeting” them for later.

I’d say step 7 is definitely the hardest.

What You Don’t Know

Book Icon

What began as a favor turned into a learning experience for me as well. I really hope it made a difference for my new acquaintance. Too many people feel stress and shame when it comes to discussing financial matters.

That’s a stigma we need to address.

It’s easy to look at someone with a low credit score and think, “well, they just don’t save or spend responsibly.” Thankfully, I know so many credit union people who understand and go deeper.

Because if you only help the people in perfect situations, are you really helping?

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