The False Brand Culture of Technology

The False Brand Culture of Technology

In a lot of ways, the headlong rush into new and innovative technologies is great. People are able to learn, communicate and share ideas at a pace impossible just a few years ago. Consumers are also able to interact with their finances digitally in ways that would’ve surprised forecasters even a decade ago.

Banks and credit unions now offer the majority of their products and services that were once branch-bound are now in vibrant digital mediums. Consumers can visit with their financial institution, open and close accounts, take out loans, make payments and a host of other options – all from the comfort of their smart phone or tablet. Fewer people actually visit physical branches now than ever before.

Yes, technology is great. But it’s not everything. And if your bank or credit union hangs its entire hat on technology – you are setting yourself up to fail.


Because technology does not necessarily mean culture. Technology can exist as a part of your culture, but it is not the entirety of your culture.

For example, having all the greatest and latest digital technology for your consumers is terrific. But, much like a robot, it doesn’t have much of a soul. People will still look to the heart of your bank or credit union to check out its culture. And it is culture that drives brand. And it is brand, in turn, that drives loyalty, market and wallet share.

This speaks volumes towards the importance of educating your staff on the brand. Certainly, they have to know the ins and outs of how your digital products work. But if they don’t have a grasp of the overall bank or credit union brand — the DNA of who you are, you serve and what you want to be — you are setting yourself up as a soulless entity, one with which consumers will have a hard time relating. Ensure that your staff fully understands and lives the brand on a daily basis. This approach encourages both brand compliance and consumer loyalty through enhanced engagement.

Like a lot of things, technology makes a terrific servant but a terrible master. Ensure that your bank or credit union uses technology as a tool and does not rely on it as a false culture.

E-Scan Offers Strategies To Reach Millennials

E-Scan Offers Strategies To Reach Millennials

The Credit Union National Association recently released the 2015-2016 Environmental Scan. The E-Scan offers insights in 10 primary areas affecting credit unions, including lending, economics, technology and of course marketing. The E-Scan is a must-read for any credit union executive and is also an outstanding planning tool to use.

The marketing section is entitled “Meet Millennials’ Expectations.” It also links branding with reaching the Millennial generation by saying “Establishing a trusted relationship with young adults might mean taking a hard look at credit union branding decisions.”

According to the E-Scan, there are three factors that come into play when it comes to credit unions’ visibility with the younger generation:

(1)    Dilution of relevance

As the E-Scan notes, in five years millennials collectively will exert $1.4 trillion in buying power annually. That’s a lot of money when it comes to financial services. The challenge is that millennials are not finding credit unions relevant. The report suggests, “rekindle your relevance by finding and filling the dire needs of millennials, the needs that banks aren’t naturally willing to be able to support.”

(2)    Brand confusion

“Collectively, credit unions are the alternative millennials so desperately seek. The problem is, they’re largely unaware credit unions exist,” the E-Scan says. It goes on to argue that the term “credit union” is not necessarily negative (just maybe unknown). While there is certainly confusion among this key demographic, that confusion actually presents and opportunity to educate younger consumers about your brand.

(3)    Broken word-of-mouth cycle

While word of mouth marketing is extremely powerful, most credit union members are from older generations (Boomers, Greatest Generation). And when those generations are referring your credit union they are more than likely referring their own friends. Thus older referrals only beget older members. The solution the E-Scan suggests is that you ensure your credit union is offering products and services that Millennials want. “Credit unions must closely align their strengths with millennials’ desires.”

 One of the best parts of the E-Scan is its action items after each chapter. With the marketing section the authors went even deeper, giving 12 strategies to reach millennials.

These were just a few snippets about reaching the millennial generation—there is obviously much more detail about this marketing issue and other relevant areas in the E-Scan itself. To get the full context of the marketing section and to read the other insights, be sure to purchase your copy of the E-Scan. In addition to the report itself, you can also order the full E-Scan package, which includes the E-Scan report, the E-Scan Newsletter, the E-Scan DVD, the Strategic Planning Guide and the E-Scan Research & Advice Portal. When it comes to strategic planning, there is no better resource or tool your credit union can use than CUNA’s Environmental Scan.

Your Brand Is Not Your Brochures

Your Brand Is Not Your Brochures

Banks and credit unions spend a lot of time talking about branding. And for good reason. Yes, your collateral materials are a piece of this puzzle (so if you took the title of this article literally, you can get the posters and brochures out of the trashcan).

What you cannot do, however, is in any way rely on your collateral materials to fully represent the brand. Your brand is, quite simply, your people. You can have the very best collateral materials in the world, from billboards and commercials to social media presence and a NASCAR sponsorship. But none of it matters if your staff does not connect with the brand and, in turn, share that connection with your consumers.

Banks and credit unions spend plenty of time and money on collateral materials. Some of that is necessary. But a good portion of that money is better invested in brand training for your staff.

Brand training helps ensure your staff is more fully in-touch with and eager to live out key elements of your brand with consumers. Brand training also helps align the elements of your brand plan that in turn, help put your credit union or bank on the road to success.

Posters are great and brochures are fine. What you don’t want are people working in your bank or credit union that must automatically refer to some type of printed cheat-sheet to help them through a consumer question. During a recent marketing audit mystery shop, a teller at one credit union, when asked if she had any brochures to review, replied simply “No. I am the brochure.”

Wouldn’t it be great if every staff member at your bank or credit union could say the same thing?

Being THERE for (Gen-Y)OUNG Adults

Being THERE for (Gen-Y)OUNG Adults

Note: The following post is written by Stan Cowan.

You’ve heard it a million times. “The Millennials are coming!” But actually, they’re already here. What percentage of your membership base is made up of Gen-Y? 5%? 10% (nationally 15% use a credit union)? Now, what percentage are traditionalists? Baby-boomers? Now’s the time to ensure your credit union’s future by being “there” for the millennials.

We all know that the millennial generation surpasses the size and purchasing (and borrowing) power of their parents’ generation. Does your credit union’s infrastructure and electronic member experience meet the service expectations of the 74 million born between 1978-1995? How can you compete with the big banks and the non-traditional service delivery models of tomorrow? Given that 88% of Millennials do their banking online and 73% are more likely to be excited about a new offering in financial services from Google, Amazon, Apple, Paypal or Square than a traditional financial institution, what roles do technology solutions play in your success story?

Being “there” to Millennials means:

Being available. Convenience is king for the Millennials. Physical branches – yes, they still want them when there’s a problem, if they have questions about their account or are applying for their first loan. Even though all of them have a smartphone, they’re less comfortable talking with you on the phone. But, they’ll still use it to communicate directly to you and indirectly about you using those same smartphones via online chat, text or through social media channels (on yours, or even worse, on others you don’t see). Millennials average over three hours per day on the Internet. Whether you’re serving members in person or through electronic channels, you need proven, best-in-class technology solutions that allow your employees to serve your members anytime and through any channel they want. Watch how Credit Union 1 accomplishes this with a complete integration model.

Being engaged. You already have what you need to engage current and potential Gen-Y members – Gen-Y employees! Probably two-thirds or more of your employees fall into this category, don’t they? By 2025, three out of every four workers globally will be Millennials. Use them – empower them! They already speak their language and know how/where Millennials want to be communicated with. They are significantly more likely to conduct financial transactions through a mobile device than any other age group. Get involved in helping them communicate with each other, to teach and recruit more members like them. To do that, you must first have the robust mobile technology solutions that make it a seamless experience for your members. Learn how First Citizens National gained quick adoption with their Mobile App solution.

Being real. Now that you’re utilizing your employees more, it’s time to go to the next level. But let’s do a reality check first. What’s the average age of your board of directors, your volunteers as a whole? Do they use social media? Do they use online and mobile banking? Are they enrolled in bill pay, eStatements and remote deposit capture? Millennials love engaging with worthwhile causes. And credit unions, if the movement is communicated to them correctly, are really cool in their eyes (they may not yet understand what credit unions are and what they stand for, however). So, start today by grooming the next generation by recruiting volunteers from the same generation that you’re trying to engage and grow from. Then make sure you’re offering access points for them like how North Star Community Credit Union did by integrating their core with a mobile banking solution that kept this smaller credit union up-to-speed with Millennials.

 It’s already difficult enough for credit unions to win the hearts of Gen-Y given the competitive and regulatory environments of today. Touching the hearts of the next generation is possible, however, with the right technical solutions and culture infused from within.

 Stan Cowan works at D+H, a global technology solutions provider for the financial industry as a Senior Solutions Marketing Manager. He’s also spent over 17 years as a senior executive in the credit union industry.

How a Name Change Brought Clarity

How a Name Change Brought Clarity

“What’s in a name?”—a famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—can actually apply to many financial institutions. While several banks and credit unions have descriptive names that clearly articulate who they serve or what they are, several names are just vague and generic. And in many cases the existing name causes confusion.

That was certainly the case with one credit union that recently changed their name from Washington Community Federal Credit Union to Chrome.

“There was a lot of confusion in the marketplace,” says Amanda Lunger, vice president and chief brand officer for Chrome. “Consumers would come to us thinking we were one of our competitors because many of them have the word ‘Washington’ in their name. Plus, the old name was a mouthful to say.”

Changing the name was not a quick, overnight fix. The entire process actually took over a year and began with a strategic planning session focused on culture, values and how the old banking model was changing. Once the strategy was in place, then the credit union spent a lot of time choosing the right partner to assist them with changing their name.

“We went with a local firm that could leverage our size and create something truly unique,” Lunger said. They partnered with Wall to Wall Studios, a full-service integrated brand design agency. “We started by developing our brand platform, which included our vision, mission, values and target markets.”

They also focused on their roots. Originally founded as Washington Steel Credit Union they had a foundation in the steel industry. And since chromium is a hard white metal used in stainless steel there is a natural tie-in to “Chrome.” Plus, the Greek word for color is chroma. So naturally their new tagline is “banking that shines.”

So what would Lunger recommend to a financial institution considering a name change? Here are a few quick tips she offered:

  • Wait until the time is right
  • Put research in place
  • Remember branding is everything
  • Take your time
  • Make a real investment in branding
  • Focus on corporate culture and training

“Whether you change your name or not, ultimately, you need to give your brand a hug,” Lunger adds. They are currently spending a great deal of time ensuring the staff buys into the brand. “Every marketing dollar you spend is wasted if your staff is not living your brand,” she says.

How have members responded to the new name and a brand hug? “When we explain the name, their eyes light up,” Lunger says. “We are also communicating that these significant changes mean a higher level of service.”

And a great deal more clarity.


Can You Versus Should You

Can You Versus Should You

Many years ago Nike famously attempted to launch a new product line: Nike jeans. Their company is all about shoes, athletic apparel and sports. A far cry from jeans. Nike spent millions and millions of dollars trying to promote their denim wear. The product bomb miserably. Why? Because Nike is not about jeans.

Could Nike offer jeans? Of course. Should Nike offer jeans? Of course not.

As your credit union or bank heads into its strategic planning session, there are many questions you can ask. There are many directions and strategic initiatives you can take. But the most important thought you need to consider is:

What strategic initiatives should we undertake?

It all comes down to focus. The more you focus, the more you will succeed. As a subset of the above question, consider asking, “What are the top three things we can do in the next six to twelve months that will help us reach our goals?” Begin with the end in mind and work your way backwards.

In many planning sessions we want to accomplish it all. However, the most successful executives are masters of exclusion. Rather than saying “yes” to everything say “no” to most things.

As an example, your financial institution can do a lot things: market to Hispanics, increase your youth efforts, grow community involvement, promote loans, reduce operating expenses, update your brand, change your name, hire more employees, launch a sales and service culture, open more branches, increase your digital prescence, offer innovative products, and on and on and on. Those are all great strategic initiatives. But are they right strategic initiatives?

It depends on how you answer that key question: what should we do?

When answering that important question, consider your vision (why you exist), your values (what is important to you) and your goals (what you want to accomplish). When you are planning, never move away from those core elements.

There are many cases when we want to be like Nike. However, when it comes to Nike jeans you might not want to try on that pair.

Speaking Tricks That Improve Your Credit Union or Bank Leaders

Speaking Tricks That Improve Your Credit Union or Bank Leaders

There are tricks in any industry. Watch a Food Network show and you’ll see experts sharing their insights and tips on a multitude of cooking issues. When it comes to improving your skills as an executive with a credit union or bank, there are also tricks. And you can learn these tips from other industries (but maybe not the cooking field).

In his latest free e-book, Dr. Michael Hudson shares 52 Speaking Tricks. These tips are not just for speakers. Every executive, manager or board member at your financial institution can learn several ideas with this quick read.

I had the opportunity to visit with Michael about 52 Speaking Tricks. Below is my Q&A with him.

What can credit union and banking leaders learn from 52 speaking tricks?

Some credit union leaders might have an initial reaction that they don’t need to think about speaking in public because they don’t do it that often. But that’s really not true.

Every time they speak in a meeting, to their team, one-on-one at a conference, or respond to a question from a consumer, they are speaking in public. The things they’ll learn from 52 Speaking Tricks will help them deliver their messages more effectively, and nothing it more important to the growth of a business than consistent, effective use of the leader’s voice.

What are some the favorite tricks from the book?

This is kind of like deciding which of your kids or grandkids is your favorite, but here goes.


  • Speaking Trick #7—Arrive Early…AlwaysNothing impacts your comfort level, engagement, or connection with the audience more than arriving early. You can’t afford to be caught off-guard by strolling in late. All manner of things need to be surveyed – lighting, seating, technology. Arrive at least 45 minutes before you speak and set yourself up for success.
  • Speaking Trick #13—Manage Your Nerves…My take on nerves is that if you aren’t at least a little nervous before every speech, then you probably don’t care enough about the audience. It’s not about impressing them, but it is about sharing the message they need to hear in a way that allows them to hear it. Here’s my quick trick for calming my nerves right before going on stage: Sit or stand quietly and press your right thumb against the palm of your left hand. There is a point in the middle of this palm called the ulnar point. Pressing or massaging that point will relax your body because it goes directly to your heart.
  • Speaking Trick #41—The Power of the Pause…There are few things more powerful than…the pause. Learning to pause—at the right time creates emphasis, builds interest, and makes your audience pay attention. Effective speeches have natural breaks throughout. Avoid over-talking—and utilize pauses to pace your presentation. It also makes you become more comfortable with the silences that others fill with ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that distract the listener.


You are big on “defining your story.” Why is this so important for financial institutions?

Stories move people at an emotional level and when we are engaged emotionally we work differently. We care, we engage, we question, and we take ownership. We do that because the story helps us see how we are creating an impact through the work we do.

When the leader is committed to sharing the story and moving the team at an emotional and personal level it drives behavior and creates habits that drive the organization toward success. And that is the essence of executing an effective strategy—knowing why you are doing what you are doing and what it looks like when success is achieved.

And the only way you can connect that to people is through storytelling.

You are a strategic planning guru. What is one thing your new e-book teaches about strategic planning?

To some degree learning how to be more effective in speaking is the most important thing any leader can do to ensure the success of the strategic planning process and the execution of the strategy once it is defined. The planning process requires effective presentation, debate, discussion, and deliberation of ideas and possibilities. Being more effective in speaking impacts all of those steps. Execution of the strategy requires focused attention to doing the work that needs to be done and saying no to the things that distract from it. More effective communication and a commitment to consistent communication are key drives of successful execution. Speaking more effectively is one of the most important tools in the leader’s tool box.

Michael is one of those individuals from whom you learn something every time you talk with him or read his materials. 52 Speaking Tricks is a quick read full of valuable information. I highly recommend you and your team download it today.

Brand Traps To Avoid

Brand Traps To Avoid

There are traps everywhere when it comes to growing your financial institution. External traps (think about your competition). Internal traps (think about your employees). Regulatory traps (think about the NCUA and FDIC—well, don’t think about them unless you want nightmares!).

You get the idea: whether it is changing trends, changing consumers or changing technology the speed at which the financial services industry is moving is like lightening. There are potential pitfalls everywhere you turn.

But perhaps the greatest traps to watch when it comes to your bank or credit union are your brand traps. There are many places—traps—your financial institution must avoid when building or reinforcing your brand.

As we review a few brand traps to avoid below, keep in mind the most deadly traps are the subtle ones. When looking at the traps below keep in mind we assume you already have a brand plan, a targeted niche audience and strong messaging. Those are the basics. If you don’t have those in place, don’t worry about the traps because you are already in a deep hole.

With that in mind, here are a few brand traps to avoid;

  • Cliché Differentiation —STOP saying what makes you different is service, people or the community. EVERYONE says the same thing. Give your brand vision, message and mission the logo test: put your hand over your logo and just read your tagline or vision statement. Now could those words be anyone else’s? Are they cliché or do they truly represent what you are all about. And most importantly, do those words differentiate yourself from the marketplace?
  • Low Employee Engagement—According to Gallup Research, 56% of all employees are not engaged with their employer and another 18% are actively disengaged. That means only 26% are actively engaged with your brand. If your employees are not living your brand, then your brand will never succeed. Nothing kills a brand more than low employee engagement. The trap many leaders make is that they ASSUME that because they themselves get and understand the bank or credit union brand, then all their employees do as well.
  • Out of Touch LeadershipJohn Maxwell once said, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” Apply that quote to branding: everything about your brand rises and falls based on your leadership. A disconnect between management and staff can quickly develop when it comes to brand. Ask management and board “what is your financial institution about” and then ask your front-line staff the same question and you might be surprised when you compare answers.
    • Solution: Listen to your staff’s brand struggles.
  • Lack of attention to detail—Ray Davis, CEO of Umpqua Bank and author of Leading for Growth says, “You can’t have a strong brand and be lax about the details.” We often think of branding as a “big picture” issue and it certainly is. However, strong brands focus on every single detail of the organization. When it comes to branding, everything matters.

Traps can sneak up on you quickly. Even if you feel you’ve built a strong brand, be sure to stay alert and avoid these snares.

Three Steps To Improve SEG Development

Three Steps To Improve SEG Development

Credit unions are consistently looking for new ways to improve their business development efforts. After all, adding new members is the lifeblood of a growing credit union. But how can credit unions improve their select employee group (SEG) efforts?

The following three steps will help make your SEG development initiatives much more effective:

  • Provide Employee Development
  • Help People Self-identify Their Goals
  • Speak “Client”

Below is an explanation of each step:

Provide Employee Development

Businesses don’t know what a SEG is. They probably don’t even know the difference between a credit union and a bank. But that’s not what gets them up in the morning. Improving their business does. If you can help make their employees happier and more productive, then you will get their attention. That being said, please note that the next section – self-identification.

Note: Take a look at the Filene Research Institute paper on Financial Stress and Workplace Performance. You’ll also want to check out Gallup’s State of the American Workplace.

Help People Self-identify Their Goals

Employers can be an outstanding area of growth for credit unions. But you can’t just walk in the door and start selling employees your products. Actually, people are not open to receiving help unless they have self-identified that need (it’s an ego thing). So how do you make this happen? It’s simple. Just ask.

These are two questions that almost everyone in your organization should ask that will help you truly support your clients, including business partners:

  • Financially, what is the one thing you are trying to improve right now?
  • What can I do to help?

Note: A person’s business goals oftentimes look like “Work smarter, not harder.” Their personal financial goals look more like “take more vacations and save for retirement”.

Speak “Client”

Once your SEG or member has told you what they want to achieve, you have the answer. Now it is your job to help them achieve that goal. It is not your job to make that person as smart as you are when it comes to your products or services. There is an old saying that applies here: “Tell people what time it is; not how the watch works.”

Make it simple for people to engage you in their business and lives. Just ask them the two questions and keep tying what you do back to their goal. If they want to know more about how the watch works, they’ll ask.

In Summary: Link member services to SEG and business development.

Whether you are working with a SEG or a member, the key to improvement is self-identification. And the way to make this happen is to just ask these two questions:

  • Financially, what is the one thing you are trying to improve right now?
  • What can I do to help?

If you can integrate this into your business development model, then you will have a simple and repeatable system to financially support every employee in every business. This is how you can turn your SEG operation into a business development machine.


Joel Busboom is the founder of The Inspired Workplace. You can check out his website here:

Four Ways to Avoid The Strategic Plan Drift

Four Ways to Avoid The Strategic Plan Drift

Strategic planning sessions are fun (or at least they should be). You examine your successes and failures, brainstorm new initiatives to grow, put timelines together and wrap it all up with a pretty PowerPoint presentation. You strategize, you plan, you prioritize.

And sometimes, then you drift.

Strategic plans face many obstacles when it comes to success: external threats, unexpected economic downtowns, unfortunate staffing challenges, etc. There are several ways you can lose strategic momentum or fail to reach your goals. But one of the greatest traps you must avoid is the strategic plan drift.

As Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine and author of The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster says, “You see, we don’t fall off course, we drift off course. We don’t fall off our workout schedule, our diet, our resolutions, our goals—we drift.”

He goes on to say, “We drift ever so slightly and slowly without realizing it. Then a while down the road, we finally regain consciousness, only to realize we are completely off course.”

Once your plan is crafted, then the tasks of running your credit union or bank can easily dominate your daily routine. You don’t intend to drift, but somehow you fall off your desired path. So how do you avoid having your strategic initiatives drift? Here are four ways to not fall into that trap.

Focus your plan

Your strategic plan’s success starts with focus. If you have five or more strategic initiatives then you actually have too many, which results in a lack of focus. More does not always mean better. In fact, the more on your strategic “To Do” list the more overwhelming it is. If your plan feels like a tidal wave then it’s easy to start drifting.

Track your progress

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: what is not measured is not accomplished. Sure we look at our plans every three or six months to see how we are doing. But that’s not enough. You need to track your progress weekly and monthly. Break those strategies down into smaller bites and measure how you’re doing. Keep in mind that measurement is more than just numbers. You can’t measure your success just in ratios and spreadsheets. If your plan lacks tracking then it’s easy to start drifting.

Engage your staff

It doesn’t matter what is written on your planning document—it’s your staff that is going to determine its success (or failure). Make sure you talk with your staff about what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization. But engaging is more than just talking. It means seeking their input, making changes based on their feedback and involving them in as many aspects of strategic planning as possible. If your plan lacks staff engagement then it’s easy to start drifting.

Hold each other accountable

People are either afraid of or avoid accountability. But the reality is we all need accountability. Financial institutions and their strategic goals certainly need accountability. As executives, you are responsible for your credit union or bank’s goals. Don’t shy away from having hard conversations with each other about what is really going on in your organization. Loan numbers not what they should be—ask why. Branding efforts not connecting with consumers—ask why. If your plan lacks accountability, then it’s easy to start drifting.

You don’t want your strategic plan to be like a ship without a rudder. You don’t want your strategic plan to drift aimlessly among the waves. So avoid that drift by focusing your plan, tracking your progress, engaging your staff and holding each other accountable.