We recently spoke with Angie Owens, CEO and President with American Airlines Federal Credit Union ($5.5 billion, 234,000 members) about her thoughts on credit union relevancy in the modern financial services world. Owens offered keen insights every credit union should consider on how to remain relevant.
Why do credit unions struggle with being relevant today?
I think the entire industry is working diligently to remain relevant. This means all credit unions large and small, located anywhere with any field of membership. One challenge in particular many credit unions face with relevancy is in working with boards that are happy with the status quo. While we always respect and value their volunteerism, expertise and time, boards must be willing to move forward and plot a brave new course into the future for their credit union. We also live in unprecedented times, with the volatile economy and rapid technological innovations. All credit unions, as smaller institutions (when compared to the big banks) must leverage all their resources and expertise to stay in the game.
What are a few signs that your credit union may be in danger of becoming irrelevant?
Obvious signs include shrinking asset size and membership numbers. We also must delve deeper and look at less overt but equally compelling information, like products per member (PPM). Credit unions must also ask the tough question: do our members see us as a savings-only place? If so, a credit union could be headed down the path to irrelevancy.
How can credit unions remain relevant in the marketplace?
Credit unions must have the technology and infrastructure required to build a 24/7 all-access member service organization. This means more than just the technology, however. It also means having the right people in place to handle this type of growth and the inevitable challenges that come with it. We must also stay on top of what our members tell us they want and need and develop key products and services to address this. Listening to members is the key here. They do a good job telling us what they need. Credit unions need to have the ears to listen and the initiative to respond. This is where education is also critical. Credit unions must continue to educate members and the public at large about who we are and what we do.
How important is embracing new technology for credit unions to remain relevant?
This is an enormously important initiative for all credit unions. I’d call it our number one priority as an industry. Members expect 24/7 access to their financial institutions and technology provides this doorway.