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Welcome to the CUES Podcast! Credit Union Executives Society supports this interview-format show that features credit union industry leaders and cross-industry experts discussing their perspectives on credit union topics and trends relevant to you. The show is hosted by James Lenz, CUES Professional Development Manager, and Lisa Hochgraf, CUES Senior Editor. We explore topics like leadership, strategy, organizational culture, member experience, marketing, mentoring, innovation, governance, cybersecurity, and more. Check out our rich content website at In addition to this podcast directory, you can connect listen to the show at Not a CUES member? Learn more and sign up at
106 Episodes
The pandemic came to the fore while CUES and Industry Insights were fielding this year’s compensation and salary surveys. But fortunately, great data was still collected that can form an excellent foundation for credit unions making decisions about executive compensation and staff salaries.“It provides us a great base for moving forward, for understanding the true impact of COVID, says Michael Becher, vice president of Industry Insights, CUES' partner in producing CUES Executive Compensation Survey and the CUES Employee Salary Survey. “This data is very, very relevant” and can support decision-making about pay levels now and after the COVID-19 pandemic.Becher says the increases in pay for staff and executives highlighted by the CUES surveys are bigger than those reported across all industries in the U.S. WorldatWork has reported increases for staff and executives of 3% to 3.3% for the last few years. “CU increases have been more in the 5% to 8% range,” he adds. CUES Executive Compensation Survey reports increases on all of the 22 positions it covers, including increases in base salary, bonuses and total compensation.“It shows the strength of the credit union and financial services industry,” Becher says, “ … and it’s just a nice thing if you’re in the credit union space.”During the show, which is supported by a commercial from CUES Supplier member Harland Clarke, Becher also describes how the CUES survey has been looking at the pay situation for women since 2018. The survey finds that 47% of credit unions with less than a billion dollars in assets employ a female CEO compared with 39% of credit unions with more than a billion dollars in assets. Not surprisingly, the pay for CEOs at smaller credit unions is typically lower than the pay for CEOs at larger credit unions. Becher also says eight positions covered by the survey have a higher rate of women: HR executive, chief member solutions officer, marketing executive, retail branch executive, compliance exec, chief operations officer, regional branch management executive and chief operating officer. “We’re still pretty early in collecting this type of information,” Becher says. “We’re looking forward to continuing to collect this information.”Laura Lynch, products and services manager at CUES, says in the show that the surveys provide important data to help credit unions see if they’re competitive with their peers. Only with the data can they choose to pay executives and employees at a particular level, whether that’s at market, above market or below market. “A lot that goes into compensation package and the data is an important part of that,” Lynch says. “We’ve been known for providing that competitive data for many years. “There are lots of tools where they can create that peer group,” she adds, referring to the reporting tools included with both surveys that allow credit unions to “slice and dice” the data to help them make decisions.Links for this episode:Michael Becher at Industry InsightsCUES Executive Compensation SurveyCUES Employee Salary SurveyCommercial sponsor: CUES Supplier member Harland Clarke2019 compensation podcast
Even before the pandemic, credit unions were the most empathetic collectors around. While credit unions clearly need members to pay their loans and credit cards, they have always approached collections with an eye for helping the member through financial difficulty and educating them about personal finance.Enter the pandemic and many members were suddenly unemployed. Credit unions were on the financial front lines, working on ways to help, says Jeff Mortensen, VP/client services for the Financial Institution Group at CUES Supplier member SWBC, San Antonio, Texas. SWBC is the sponsor of this show.“They clearly understood up front that they need to figure out how to help their members,” Jeff Mortensen says in the show. But they quickly discovered that calling their members every couple of days wasn’t helping them. “So they took a step backwards … and said, “Wait a minute. What’s best for our memberships and how can we help them?’ …“They were proactive with it,” he adds. “Being proactive with it has been very successful for them. What they end up doing is creating loyal membership.“The pandemic is an event none of us has experienced before,” Mortensen says. “Delinquency is something many of the members have never experienced before, either.” As a result, some members might feel embarrassed about getting a collections call. This can make self-service options like text or email great ways to communicate with members during delinquency.But how can a credit union determine which communication channel a member really prefers? Mortenson says that can happen in one of two ways. The first is during member onboarding if a member specifically notes a preference for texts. The second is by watching member behavior. If a member more often responds to email, that is probably that person’s preferred method.In the show, Mortenson talks about a new SWBC offering made possible by a partnership with FICO. This system helps track collections communications and, over time, discern members’ preferred channels.“There’s no crystal ballt hat will tell us where delinquency is headed in the next few months. CUs need to be prepared at least on a temp basis to handle increased delinquency. They should consider adding multiple comm strategies for collecting delinquent accounts, including IVR, text and email with self-service capability. Omnichannel, along with the traditional collection models, will maximize their results.”The show also gets into: Three things to do to prepare for the future of collections, no matter what the pandemic and the economy bringStatistics supporting the value of offering texting as a collections communication channelMore details about the partnership SWBC has forged with FICO to provide members collections communications using their preferred channelsPlans for using the FICO platform for early, mid- and late-stage collectionsThe value of automation when volume is highLinks for this episode of the CUES PodcastCUES Supplier member SWBC, the sponsor of this showSWBC outsourced collectionsMore CUES content on collections from SWBCThree Ways to Manage Delinquencies with Indirect BorrowersFive Qualities of a Well-Rounded Collection AgentA Guide to Auditing Your In-House Collections
Laurie Maddalena’s vision is to create a place where people love to come to work. Gallup has found in its most recent workforce study, she says, that only about 34% of American employees feel engaged at work.“Most people don’t enjoy their work and I think a lot of that has to do with leadership, the quality of leadership we have in our organizations,” says Maddalena, CEO of Envision Excellence, a leadership consulting firm that provides leadership development programs for managers and executives, keynote speeches, team building and leadership assessments.As antidote, Maddalena recommends leaders look to be “modern” leaders, focused on facilitating people doing the work, not fixing problems themselves. Modern leaders get to know their employees and place high value on the people side of the business, she says. New leaders sometimes struggle with taking a modern leadership approach because they have been promoted because they are technically adept—not because they have leadership skills. So instead of leading in the modern, they are more likely to lead as they were led, in a more traditional, directive rather than facilitating way.According to Maddalena, new leaders often struggle with: Getting focused. This could be because they haven’t had the necessary leadership training or aren’t getting enough guidance from their leader.Delegation. New leaders might think their technical skills are most important, when in fact their job as leader is to facilitate other people’s work.Supporting their staff’s engagement. Engagement comes when leaders step back and facilitate solutions rather than fixing things themselves, she says.To overcome these challenges, Maddalena recommends that new leaders:Ask for training and other help preparing for their new role.Look deeply at their leadership style and constantly develop themselves.Shift their mentality about leadership. “Leadership is a privilege and it’s a responsibility,” she explains. “It’s not a hat we wear. True leadership is service.”“I often say, ‘If it weren’t for the people, leadership would be easy,’” Maddalena adds. “Preparing yourself to be of service to people” is a key part of the job. In the show, Maddalena says it’s hard for people to lead in a modern way. Leadership training is important both for new and experienced leaders to continue to evolve.“We need active leadership” more than ever during the pandemic, she says, “meaning reaching out and checking in. People are really stressed. It’s going to take more energy and effort” than ever.“Our job as leaders is to focus on the people and facilitate the people side of the business,” she underscores. “The technical side will get done. But the people are who put the effort in to get the results, so we need to make sure that’s a big focus.”The show also gets into:How Laurie Maddalena fell in love with credit unionsLaurie’s favorite quote from Zig Ziglar and how that applies to leadershipPerspective on how leadership is the same or different during a crisis like the pandemicMaddalena’s assessment of leadership readiness at credit unions during the pandemic and beyondThe value of modeling leadershipThe CUES Emerge program and how Laurie Maddalena and her consultancy supported it
In the Tampa Bay, Florida, region, migration from Spanish-speaking countries has increased more than 200% in the last two decades and that number continues to rise, creating social and economic change in the area, according to Lindsey Walker, executive assistant with $259 million/32,000-member Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, Tampa Bay, Florida, and the 2020 CUES Emerging Leader, the first-ever winner.That growth was driven by part by Tampa being a top destination for people from Puerto Rico escaping Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Other Spanish speakers have come to the Tampa area from Columbia, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.According to Walker, a national survey found these individuals prefer having documents available in their native language. “There’s always room for misinterpretation when you speak dual languages,” Walker explains in the show. “This is especially true for older Spanish speakers. They often bring a grandchild or friend with strong English skills to help them.” If they don’t, they sometimes sign without fully understanding the terms, which can become a real problem.In the Tampa Bay region 24.3% of the unbanked and underbanked population rely on payday lenders, Walker points out in the show. These organizations prey heavily on minorities who lack access to mainstream financial products, she says.Getting their business at the credit union instead can be as simple as letting a consumer “know they can become a member of a credit union or that we will accept their identification. They actually can get access to products.“Since 2015, Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union has begun changing the narrative in our community and helping get the word out that we are there and we can support” Spanish speakers, she explains. “We make it known that we accept alternative types of identification for membership and loans. We have staffed our front line with over 74% being bilingual. Our branches are strategically built in Hispanic communities. We facilitate financial literacy classes in Spanish. We have bilingual branch leaders who have undergone” … financial literacy education courses.In all, “with completion of the Spanish outreach program … we’ve been able to provide materials to our Spanish speaking community such as member applications, loan documents, website, marketing materials,” she adds. “It’s a huge leap for the credit union. The feedback that we have received as each segment of the program has gone live” has been very positive. “They’ve been so grateful that we are listening to their needs and responding.”The credit union invested $56,000 and now anticipates 1% growth annually. With 8,200 Spanish-speaking members now, that’s 1,900 new members in the next five years “that we’ll be able to help,” Walker says. “We also anticipate an on-balance loan sheet increase of $128 million. Of that, we anticipate $6.4 million being deployed to our Hispanic communities. I think it’s a huge win-win.”The show also gets into:Walker’s professional mantra, “Seize every opportunity available,” and her favorite quoteTips for credit unions that want to do this in their own shopsGrant writing and the National Credit Union Administration’s community development financial institution programThe CUES Emerge program
In this show, Patrick Donohue tells the story about going to Home Depot to buy a power drill. He emphasizes that he didn’t really want a power drill. But rather he wanted to make a hole in his wall. And actually, his purpose wasn’t truly the hole. Instead it was to install his family’s new Ring doorbell. At bottom, it wasn’t that Donohue wanted to buy a power drill. It was his wife who wanted a better system for making sure delivered groceries got brought inside in a timely manner.Product manager, Data Solutions Group at CUES Supplier member FIS, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, and the sponsor of this show, Donohue tells this story to underscore the idea that behind every data point is an intention, an intrinsic desire of an individual member.  “The more we can use data to understand our customers’ stories—what’s going on in their life and what’s likely to happen next for them—the greater the chance we have to delight them and retain our members,” he explains.During the show, Donohue also talks about key trends impacting credit unions’ use of data today, including fintechs—both startups and big tech companies—and the uncertainty associated with the coronavirus pandemic and what that means for members’ transaction patterns. Next, Donohue provides specific tips on how to better use data that’s currently “left behind” and not leveraged to credit unions’ advantages. He suggests looking to the transaction ledger for the rich information contained there about members. He describes an example transaction that credit unions could mine. “We can spot that a user has made a purchase—let’s say at a golf shop,” he says. “The merchant name is a little bit cryptic. We think it’s a golf shop but we can use a merchant name database and know that it’s Golf Mart. Then we can look at the whole landscape. Is this a one-time purchase? Is it a present for his cousin Larry? No, this is someone that also has a subscription to a green fee app. We can also see that their college tuition expenses are increasing. We might be seeing some signals in the data that his life is changing a bit. He wants to keep his golf going but he also has some additional expenses he has to pay.“You begin to layer on data to better understand that unique customer’s story,” he adds. “It allows everyone in the value chain for that member to customize that experience from the personal banker who’s standing in front of John inside the branch to the digital experience that’s serving up insights in mobile banking … all the way to the customer service rep who’s talking to them via phone. We know more about John and what’s important to him.”The show also gets into:The backstory behind Donohue’s professional mantra: “Move the authority to where the information is”What is meant by “single-threaded” apps created by fintechs, and how credit unions’ more holistic strategy can be a competitive advantageThe top tough questions that credit unions should be asking themselves when it comes to making the most of their data to serve members on a personal levelHow FIS helps its clients with their data efforts
For this milestone episode, CUES Podcast listeners submitted their questions for experts to answer. So instead of featuring one or two experts, this show features seven! Instead of being centered on just one idea, this show covers three areas of major interest to credit unions and their leaders: reopening physical branches in light of the pandemic, reaching and engaging young members, and the future of credit unions 25 years out.Our first question about when credit unions might reopen fully comes at the 5:12 mark from CUES member Ron Kraus, chair of the board of $2 billion Together Credit Union in the St. Louis area. Kraus’s question is first answered by Mike Carter, EVP of CUESolutions Bronze provider Strategic Resources Management, Memphis, Tennessee. A second response is given by Steve Reider, president of CUES Supplier member Bancography, Birmingham, Alabama. Neither expert expects 100% reopening across the country by Thanksgiving and each has ideas about the larger implications of the pandemic on the financial services.The show’s second question is from CUES member Karen Bruce, associate board member at $1.7 billion America’s First Credit Union, Birmingham, Alabama. It's about how credit unions can best reach and engage young members and comes at 12:04.Bruce’s question is answered by three experts: Ben Stangland, president/COO of CUES Supplier member Strum, Seattle; Keith Brannan, chief marketing officer for Kasasa, Austin, Texas; and Jeff Fromm, author of four books and the president of Futurecast, a subsidiary of Barkley, New York. The three say young members are a great opportunity for credit unions and offer ideas for connecting with them.The third and final question in the show comes from CUES member Mary Gray, director of member engagement and programs at $1.8 billion A+ Federal Credit Union, Austin, Texas. It's about what credit unions will look like in 25 years and comes in at 25:06. Two experts with vision provide answers to Gray’s forward-thinking question: Steve Williams, principal with CUES Supplier member and strategic provider for technology and planning services, Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Chris Skinner, an independent technology commentator at The Finaser blog, the author of several books and chair of the Financial Services Club.Williams says in 25 years there is great opportunity for both large banks and grassroots financial services. He notes four words that come to mind about qualities that credit unions that can stay the course will have—purpose, talent, technology and scale—then elaborates on each. Skinner suggests not trying to compete with big banks but rather standing for something other than shareholders and profit. He believes credit unions have a great opportunity to deliver on this idea.The show also gets into:What listeners whose questions are featured in the show have appreciated about the CUES Podcast A favorite memory of CUES Podcast founder and host James Lenz from the first 100 episodesHow to submit your question for possible use on a future showThe great story about how Jeff Fromm ended up studying young consumers
In the best of times, it’s a big job for leaders to demonstrate the kind of empathy that builds trust with their followers. Showing the kind of empathy that builds trust is even harder in this era of remote work and social distancing brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, says episode 99 guest Sean Martin, Ph.D., associate professor of business administration at the Darden School of Business at the  University of Virginia, Charlottesville, which hosts CUES’ CEO Institute III: Strategic Leadership Development. “People will choose to trust you to the extent that they believe that a) you have the skills to do a job (they can trust your abilities you have the technical know-how to do things), b) that you have the integrity that they can trust that you’re not going to tell them a lie; you’re not going to misrepresent things; you’re not going to ignore the truth and then c) trust in your benevolence, really trust that you actually have a sense of caring and concern and empathy for them,” explains Martin, who is among three highly-rated speakers presenting at Knowledge and Networking in November.“To the extent that you have those three dimensions, … then we can say you are a trusted leader. That’s really hard to do virtually. It’s not impossible. But when we’re in a virtual environment, when people are not able to interact face to face or when we’re having interactions over the phone and all we can hear is each other’s voices, or we have to stay six feet apart or we’re all wearing masks … that presents a lot of challenges for how to we express empathy effectively; how do we show people how much we care. … Are we taking the time to really build relationships when people are distanced?”Martin’s research involved how organizational and societal contexts affect leader-follower dynamics. He says COVID-19 has had “big general effects on leadership,” but also speaks to social class dynamics. “I think we’re waking up to the fact that a lot of the jobs that we rely on societally and even within an organization is done by people that we frequently—and I don’t think intentionally—… take for granted,” he explains. “We frequently assume that people will be there to bag our groceries. We assume that people will be there to work on manufacturing lines. We assume and take for granted that people will show up to do the actual production of goods and services that make our economy run. When something is taken for granted, I think we tend to not value it as highly.“For a long time, we haven’t had a reason to as a society to wake up and realize the incredible value, skills, abilities and critically important roles that people (have) who often are not sitting at the very high end of an organizational hierarchy,” he continues. “When COVID hit and exposed a lot of these things, we are starting to realize that the people we really can’t afford to lose are the people who are making things and the people who are performing the face-to-face service. That’s the essential work. We need to start valuing that differently."The show also gets into:Leadership lessons that can be learned from sportsWhy Dr. Martin likes to use sports in teaching leadershipWhat is Dr. Martin’s favorite sportWhat Dr. Martin will present at his Knowledge and Networking in November session, titled  “Organizational Values: A Beacon in a Storm of Uncertainty”Dr. Martin’s paper that was featured on Comedy Central
The pandemic has accelerated trends that have long been underway, including consumer adoption of mobile services. That means that credit union leaders need to shift their thinking, possibly shifting their strategy for meeting and supporting digital demand.“In order for them to manage and go forward with their physical and digital relationships, they’re going to need to change,” Kevin Blair says in this episode of the CUES Podcast. “Nothing will be quite the same as it was before the pandemic.”In this show, Blair, president/CEO of CUES Supplier member NewGround, says that before the pandemic, surveys showed that 60% to 70% of consumers preferred coming to the branch to do their financial business. Now, a similar proportion says they prefer to interact with their financial services provider digitally. “What the pandemic did was accelerated it—it pushed the industry to the tipping point,” Blair emphasizes. (Learn more in the company's new whitepaper.Interestingly though, this doesn’t mean credit union members will never want to enter a branch. On the contrary, research Blair cites in this episode says the first thing that consumers wanted to reopen was manufacturing. The second was their financial services provider. Blair thinks this means their top priority is jobs and then after that they want to attend to their financial business.In the show, Blair provides a host of practical suggestions for how to make sure that your credit union’s physical locations respond to consumers’ concerns about sanitation and the prevention of disease transmission. These include sneeze guards, automatic door openers and motion-activated faucets. Blair emphasizes in the episode that credit union leaders need to keep their organization’s long-term strategy in mind.“This too shall pass,” he says. “It’s not forever.” Physical sites are designed and implemented with a 20 to 30-year vision. They have some flex but they aren’t something you replace two years after establishing them. In addition to working on their actual digital delivery systems, credit unions need to be thinking about how to staff the support for digital delivery—he says it’s not unreasonable to think that teams doing digital delivery support could double or triple in size. And that begs the question about what kind of physical space will best help employees do this work.The show also gets into:The member experience center of the futureHow members are more patient with branch service than with digital deliveryRebalancing delivery channels going forwardAlignment of brand, place and cultureResetting strategy in the wake of the pandemic 
“The cloud brings a lot to the table when it comes to what you can offer your members,” Steve Comer says in this show.That’s a key reason that credit unions are embracing the use of the cloud these days, explains Comer, director of financial services & insurance sales at Hyland Software Inc. Hyland OnBase is a CUESolutions provider for enterprise information systems and the sponsor of episode 97. Another key reason that credit unions are increasingly using the cloud is that the technology has matured and been proven over the years.To clarify what is meant by the buzzword “cloud,” Comer provides a very succinct definition: It’s “somebody else’s computer.”“You’re referring to servers, databases applications that are housed somewhere and accessed over the internet,” he explains, “so it’s just relieving an institution of the burden of carrying all that infrastructure in house.” Credit unions are adopting the cloud in many applications now, he says, because “they are very strategic in their thinking” and the cloud can help them make strategic moves.For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused many credit unions to send their staff members home to work, credit unions that already were using the cloud found themselves with an advantage.“Credit unions had to learn to operate with the remote workforce,” Comer explains in the show. “The ability to keep work processes going was suddenly reliant on mutual accessibility points that didn’t exist if you had a completely on-premise infrastructure.“You have to be able to work with your co-workers” even when you’re working from home, Comer adds. “You have to be able to communicate with your members. You have to be able to share information. And, because of COVID, people were everywhere.”This show also gets into:How cloud-based applications helped credit unions, especially those that were ready with cloud technology, participate in Paycheck Protection Program lending—by allowing them to share and access application materials, evaluate and distribute loans, and manage compliance requirementsHow cloud-based applications help with compliance monitoring and execution on new rules not just for PPP but in generalHow the cloud can help a credit union capture information that’s coming in and make its data processes more efficientWhat’s next for the cloud, which Comer says is likely to be part of practically every new technology
The job of board liaisons today is multi-faceted and evolving—and it’s a good idea for organizations to foster their development, according to Julia Patrick and Michael G. Daignealt, CCD, in episode 96 of the CUES Podcast.“It really is proving to be a pivotal position, more so than I think a lot of people realize,” says Daigneault, CEO and co-founder of CUES strategic partner for governance, Quantum Governance, Vienna, Virginia. “The primary purpose of it is often thought of to support the board and support the committee. But I think it’s also to guide them … and make governance more effective.”That guidance may be a factor in a credit union board becoming high performing rather than mediocre.“Michael and I share a passion for how internal leadership can really help move an organization forward,” explains Patrick, CEO/co-founder of the American Nonprofit Academy, Phoenix. “That board liaison is oftentimes the centerpiece of an effective board versus maybe a not-so-effective board.”What are some key responsibilities of board liaisons?“There’s a lot of issues that go from compliance to recording to all of the different things that have to be stored during official meetings,” Patrick answers. “They’re tracking things through their board portals. They’re actually navigating things that have a fiduciary responsibility as well as keeping the culture of the organization and … (supporting) communication.”Daigneault echoes those thoughts, noting that because board liaisons are so connected to the board chair, the CEO, directors, committee chairs and committee members, they’re often good glue for holding everything together. They also provide a really important resource for the continuing education of board and committee members, he adds.Patrick and Daigneault will co-lead Board Liaison Workshop this September. When the two led a previous CUES in-person event for board liaisons, they asked what participants most wanted to learn. The board liaisons cited such things as:How do we support board member engagement?How do we facilitate the board packets more effectively?How do we do the minutes right, rather than just taking down everything that is said?How do we help the senior team and the board shepherd the strategy process even more effectively?Attendees also expressed a desire to continue evolving the role of board liaison.“There is a desire for the board liaison to have a stronger voice and to be seen in the C-suite as a very important part of a successful operation and not just a clerical role,” Patrick explains in the show. “To understand that this is a trained, professional piece of someone’s job description, that’s somewhat of a new conversation.”Daigneault adds that the job of the board liaison is “a multi-faceted role, which is morphing and evolving and becoming more professional day by day.”The show also gets into:What surprises executives and board liaisons themselves about the evolving role of the board liaisonWhy board liaisons sometimes feel alone in their jobsThe special role of board liaisons when governance is being conducted virtuallyHow the Board Liaison Workshop and other CUES board liaison offerings are fostering a network of these professionals who can connect with and learn from each otherWhat Daigneault and Patrick bring to their presentations at the Board Liaison Workshop—high-level perspective on strategic governance plus tools for succeeding with the nuts and bolts of&
In this episode, James Robert Lay tells the story of how the CEO of Tower Records once said that kids “would always” want to come into the stores and listen to music.But Tower Records went out of business in 2006.“Music was digitized,” explains Lay, the author of a new book, Banking on Digital Growth and an instructor for CUES School of Strategic Marketing, slated for September. “We went from the record to the eight-track to the cassette, to the CD, to mp3, but we’re not done yet. Because what is music now? Music is now streaming with Spotify and Pandora.”Financial institutions are seeing a parallel shift. “What we’re seeing is the explosion of fintech and what fintech is focused on is—like music—micro niche markets, or micro problems and, for credit unions, it’s like death by a thousand cuts,” Lay explains. In the show, Lay gives a formal definition for digital growth as “a systematic process centered around the modern consumer journey” and notes that digital growth is built on three goals:Increasing traffic to a financial brand’s websiteGenerating leads from the website trafficConverting those leads into loans and deposits“The way we have to do this is by positioning the credit union beyond the commoditized great rates and amazing service and look-alike laundry list of amazing features that every other financial brand promotes,” he emphasizes.Lay explains that digital growth is not about mobile banking, remote deposit capture or social media—those are tactics.“Digital growth is about acquisition,” he says.The show also gets into:How the pandemic has impacted digital deliveryHow the pandemic has impacted credit unions’ digital growth strategiesRoadblocks to digital growthExiting the circle of chaos to move onto your next great opportunityThe shift from digital delivery supporting a branch-first strategy to branches supporting a digital-first strategyHow training and education build clarity around the digital consumer buying journeyAn update on the CUES School of Strategic Marketing
It’s OK for credit unions to be strategically planning for growth during these uncertain times, Sarah Szilagyi says during episode 94 of the CUES Podcast.“We as humans as maybe even … as women, we tend to think when we’re in a time of needing to help people, it’s not a time to think about growth or opportunity,” explains Szilagyi, SVP/experience and chief of staff for CUES Supplier member CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, California. “Actually, that’s one of the beautiful things about credit unions. Credit unions are meant to help people, that’s why we are here. But it is also OK to say, ‘There’s opportunity right now—opportunity to help people, which would lead to growth.’”“It is a time of change, which means a time of opportunity,” she continues. “As consumer behavior shifts and needs change, what credit unions can offer members also shifts and opens up new doors. A lot of shoppers are buying online now. A good portion … are buying online in the last 10 weeks for the very first time. That alone is an opportunity to explore, that member behavior, that shift. What cards are they using? Are they protected properly, etc.? There’s an opportunity to broaden services right now and to better serve members. They go together. It’s OK.”Szilagyi notes that the situation credit unions and their members are in right now is “all-new territory,” and totally unique from anything that’s been experienced before. Because of this, the process of strategic planning is shifting. “The pace of decision-making has increased drastically,” she notes. “We’re working cross-functionally more than ever to get things done. We’re looking at our members and asking, ‘What do they need?’ and really working quickly to serve those needs. We’re trying to plan and re-plan while many of us are at home watching children.”Szilagyi notes a Gallup poll that found credit union members were hit harder than the average American with regard to the COVID experience. “Thinking about that is a credit union priority,” both in their immediate response and in longer-term planning, she says. Credit unions need to be offering “financial wellness and products that help their members be financially well, as well as digital and contactless type of products.“Building trust is really one of the most important things a credit union can do right now,” she adds. “Being an ally will increase loyalty long term and members definitely need a financial partner right now they can trust.” These days, credit unions’ planning cycles are addressing immediate issues and looking forward to 2021, Szilagyi notes. To support credit unions in this effort, CO-OP Financial Services is offering its Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment in partnership with EY through July 2.  The show also gets into:How the impact of people—both employees and members—on strategic and growth planning is bigger than ever Why data is an important foundation for growthMore about the development of CO-OP Financial Services’ Credit Union Strategic Investment AssessmentMore about what a credit union receives when it does the Credit Union Strategic Investment AssessmentStrategies for applying in the real world the results of the Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment
Connie Miller recalls an episode of late-night TV when the house band didn’t have a drummer. The host appealed to the audience asking, “Hey, do we have any drummers in the audience?” One man raised his hand, came up on stage, played really well and so launched his career as a professional musician. “I often wonder how many other drummers were in the audience that talked themselves out of raising their hand rather than stepping into an amazing opportunity,” says Miller, president/CEO of $342 million Icon Credit Union, in the Boise, Idaho, area, and author of Don’t Sabotage Your Career: 11 Power-Filled Steps to Succeed.In this episode, Miller says her passion is helping people grow. She wrote her book at the encouragement of friends and people in her professional network who had come to her as a 22-year veteran of credit union leadership for advice on their own careers. Miller says some of the advice she gives has to do with helping people change their bad habits.“I have seen people grow from teller to executive,” Miller explains. “I’ve also seen many employees with expertise, smarts and education but they get passed up for a promotion or other leadership responsibilities because it would be a poor decision to move them into a leadership role” because of poor behavior traits or lack of communication skills. In this episode, Miller describes several unconscious habits people have that can get in the way of career growth. Here are just two of them:They’re not fully committed to the organization’s mission. Instead, people who want to grow their careers need to live and breathe what the company stands for. “Unless it is something that is unethical, illegal or immoral,” she says, “you have an obligation to your company to both fulfill its mission and truly be in alignment with your supervisor or your board. When employees try to dig their heels in … because of their personal preferences, it doesn’t bode well in building trust with the leadership and building your career. I am talking about trying to reach the North Star, the same ‘why’ as your leadership. It really sabotages yourself when you’re not striving to be in alignment.”They avoid difficult but needed conversations. “When you can … build your leadership mantra of creating a culture of open communication, it truly does build trust and accountable teams,” she explains in the show. “And you become very respected, however, most people avoid this. Those same people will the ones who pair off with another employee and gossip. What they don’t realize is that it really hurts their personal brand and it really breaks down trust. You will make a terrible supervisor if you don’t have the courage to talk to your employees about how they can grow.”The show also gets into:Miller’s career growth in the credit union industryHow the pandemic has shown people how resilient they can beThe value of reflection for leaders—and prospective book authorsTips to help organizational leaders think of you when considering who to choose for a promotion
The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act or “SECURE” Act that became law on Dec. 20, 2019, includes “many provisions to encourage employers to adopt new (retirement) plans or enhance their current plans and to provide more savings opportunities for employees,” according to Sharon Severson, CPC, consultant with CUESolutions Platinum provider CUNA Mutual Group, Madison, Wisconsin. The act is the largest package of retirement system changes in more than a decade.Severson says she’s most excited about some of the changes to individual retirement accounts that became effective Jan. 1, 2020, and open multiple-employer plans options that will become effective Jan. 1, 2021.“The rules governing IRAs impact most individuals at one time or another during their careers,” Severson explains. “Most of us have heard along the way about the age 70.5 or the required minimum distributions. Now those distributions must begin at age 72 instead of age 70.5 if the individual has not already turned 70.5 by 12/31/2019.” The upshot is that people who want to can save longer—and that’s a big benefit to people who keep working even in retirement. “This may be helpful for credit unions when assisting their members with their questions about IRAs or for credit unions that offer investment services to members,” Severson notes.Multiple-employer plans have been around for a long time, but the act creates the opportunity to form a new kind of MEP. “The Act allows for the formation of a 401(k) plan that includes two or more unrelated employers and this plan type is now being referred to as a ‘PEP’, a pooled employer plan,” Severson says, “and hopefully this will allow smaller employers to obtain an economy of scale that can lower both employer and employee costs.”In the show, Severson says she is glad that the Act expands retirement savings options for certain long-term part-time employees. She also thinks credit unions will also want to learn more about the Act’s changes to the minimum employer contributions for safe harbor plans.The new Act also provides a pathway for plan participants to receive an annual disclosure of projected monthly income from their retirement savings plan. According to Severson, this disclosure has “been on the Department of Labor’s to-do list” since 2006 and will still take some time to implement. The Department of Labor needs to provide a model disclosure and a set of uniform assumptions that can be used to generate these projections “so that if you move from a plan provider to another plan provider, those projections are relatively stable.”“Many people don’t know how much (money) they need” for retirement, she explains in the show. “They’re surprised when they get to retirement that their nest egg isn’t really what they needed after they stopped working. The illustration would help participants make adjustments in that savings plan with this information in hand.” The show also gets into:More details about the new pooled employer plansMore details about what long-term part-time employees may now participate in retirement savings plansMore details about the changes to the rules for employer contributions and other aspects of safe harbor 401(k) plansIncreases in retirement plan penaltiesSuggestions for how to learn more about the SECURE ActMore details about when the various changes take effect
 When people think about marketing departments, they often think about a group of people that create ads and brochures. But, according to Amy Herbig, the marketing department is, at its core, the “key communicator” for a credit union. And that is a very central and very important role as credit unions respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.“Everything that is going on right now is being channeled through marketing,” says Herbig, CEO of The BA Group, Northfield, Minnesota, in the show. While every role at the credit union is especially busy right now, “marketing is the catalyst for all that information to be disseminated to the member and to the community at large.”What’s the key message marketers need to be promoting to the credit union’s stakeholders at present? “We are still a strong, solid financial institution.”Marketers are also becoming de facto public relations reps, Herbig says, as they manage all of a credit union’s communications channels—from email to social media to the website.Marketing is always important but it’s currently more critical than ever she says, as it takes care to ensure your information is perceived correctly and to manage any misinformation that is presented to your audience.Most marketing plans and budgets were approved in December 2019 or January 2020. Then marketing had “two good months of really starting to get off the ground” before everything came to a halt due to the pandemic, Herbig says.Rather than following their original plan, marketers are “having to now act more on the fly,” she explains. “A good marketer is more proactive than reactive but ready to be reactive when called upon. Currently we’re in a constant state of reactive.”Indeed, she says that whatever was planned for the marketing focus for a particular month may have to change based on the new landscape. Herbig cites the example of a $210 million credit union that’s managing $7 million coming in from federal stimulus checks. How will that impact its upcoming audit? How will that affect its lending?A credit union’s top marketers need to be brought into the high-level meetings that consider all of these kinds of issues so they are best positioned to get appropriate messages out to members and the community, Herbig emphasizes.The show also gets into:Considerations for copyrighting during this uncertain timeThe importance of making sure the credit union is prepared to deliver on any messages put out to members or the communityExamples of what credit unions are currently doing to reach out to membersThe current effectiveness of the CU philosophy “people helping people”
When Tim Green first heard—back in January—the news about the spread of COVID-19 overseas, he decided to lead his credit union to prepare for a scenario in which the disease would shut down the whole county where his credit union is located. He says he thought at the time that if the situation turned out to be less dire, his team would still benefit from the exercise. When Los Angeles County, California, did in fact close down, Tim and his team at $1.8 billion F&A Federal Credit Union in Monterey Park were more ready than most businesses.Having antennae out to market signals and being open to responding to them is a hallmark of great leadership. And yet Green is most humble in this show. CEO for just about 13 months, he is grateful to his board for their support of this initiative. He’s grateful to other financial institutions for the ideas he “stole” from them and adapted to best suit his credit union. Green explains in the show that one of the first things he started working on when he joined the credit union was operational readiness—determining what was effective and what wasn’t in terms of people, systems and processes. A key thing he found was that “we were very adept at disaster recovery, but what also became pretty apparent was that our business continuity planning was not where we wanted it to be.”In January, when the focus narrowed to preparing for the closure scenario, “we really went through it in a sequential way. We ordered a bunch of equipment. … The processes were tested. We tested in our training environment, then we moved people remotely. By the time we got to the first week in March, we were really ready to handle this and operate 90% of the core credit union functions remotely. “Once we had operational readiness,” he continues, “… the first thing we needed to do was think, ‘How are we doing to take care of our members?’” Among other programs, the CU offers members financially affected by COVID-19 enhanced skip-a-pay and a short-term assistance loan.A third leg of the stool was employees. “We were able to move about 75% of our back-office staff out of the building (the CU has two branches) and about 70%” of all staff, he explains. “We gave everybody on the team below vice president a free week of PTO … and immediately the goodwill started to flow back from our employees." The CU closed its headquarters branch to walk-in traffic to better protect staff. The other branch has a bandit barrier between staff and members. The credit union also is paying branch workers a short-term 30% raise and catering lunch daily, so staff don’t have to leave the building to pick up food.“Because we were ready to serve operationally, we were then able to really reach out and provide tangible benefit to our membership, simultaneously demonstrating a commitment to our employees that had carried us through thus far.”The show also gets into:How Green’s risk management background informed his credit union’s responseThe thing that has worked best for F&A FCU in its pandemic response How F&A FCU’s response reflected its values--what its leadership thought was the right thing to doWhat F&A FCU might do next in its pandemic response effortGreen’s concerns about the economic recovery and helping members through that 
Early on in this show, Nick Coleman explains why he’s passionate about his work as the director of strategic relationships for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. He also describes the longtime support credit unions have offered CMNH. While those stories alone are compelling enough reasons to listen to this show, this episode of the CUES Podcast also goes on to talk very practically “cause marketing” and how charitable donation accounts can support it.Coleman defines “cause marketing” as the way an organization directs its marketing efforts both to ramp up and to highlight the good it’s doing in its community. As an example, he tells a story about a credit union in the Midwest that’s rallying youth hockey players in its community to do fundraising to support kids with disabilities and complex medical needs.Cause marketing “is a great strategy to build affinity with both members and employees,” Coleman says. “Plus, it showcases to non-members and your community the value that a credit union brings.” He cites a figure that 79% of consumers expect an organization they do business with to actively strive to do more to support their local communities. In addition, he says, 74% of people say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided an opportunity to make a positive impact. In this episode, Bruce Bauer, executive benefits specialist from CUESolutions provider CUNA Mutual Group, describes his participation in an advisory committee meeting for Credit Unions for Kids, a credit union industry organization that supports Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. He presented to that group’s Orange County, California, chapter about how charitable donation accounts could be used by each of the participating credit unions to possibly add additional donations to their efforts.More specifically, Bauer told the advisory group, and explains in the show, the National Credit Union Administration allows credit unions to expand their investment opportunities to help their charitable giving when they use charitable donation accounts as the vehicle. CUs can invest up to 5% of their net worth into a wide range of investments that are permissible with a CDA. “When they do that investment and they get earnings from that investment, 51% of those earnings, of that total return, have to go back into a 501(c)3 charity,” Bauer says. “That’s where CUs for Kids falls into place. The remaining 49% of that investment’s earnings can stay right with the credit union.“We’ve seen enormous growth with this opportunity—about 127% growth in the last year in investments into CDAs. Interestingly enough … more than half the contributions of those earnings from CDAs we have out there go to CUs for Kids. … So if we can find a way to enhance their investment portfolio to earn some additional dollars through this regulation it’s going to provide additional dollars that CUs for Kids and other charitable organizations can benefit from.”The show also gets into:What credit unions are eligible to do CDAs (all federal credit unions and state-chartered organizations; some need approval from the state)The kinds of investments credit unions can use with a CDASome examples of how CDAs have been used by credit unionsThe impact of current market volatility due to coronavirus on CDAsHow supporting 501(c)3 organizations will be increasingly important as the world tries to find a new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemicTips for doing cause marketing 
Being able to demonstrate a member-centric culture at your credit union during a crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic is evidence that you are customer-centric, Carrie Stapp says to lead off this episode.It’s “not just 'Are we friendly?' and 'Do we have the right technology?' but 'Are we really set up as an industry to help our members and to help our communities adapt in these times of uncertainty and to be able to do as much of their business as usual?'” says Stapp, SVP/product management for the marketing services division of CUES Supplier member Harland Clarke, San Antonio, Texas, the sponsor of this show.Stapp’s colleague, Jeff Hassemer, SVP/marketing, adds: “If we define being member-centric as 1) being always on, 2) staying at the top of your members’ minds and 3) delivering a positive personalized experience everywhere every time, in a sense, the thing that changes in a crisis like this is the message. It’s not necessarily about how you contact them or what you say or what apps you use…, it really is about you being able to understand what the mindset of the member is right now and delivering the right message to them and the right story that needs to be told.”Crises aside, Hassemer recommends taking using data-driven techniques to deploy information across all of a credit union’s channels to enable speaking to members in a relevant and meaningful way. Stapp reminds listeners in this episode that a truly holistic approach to customer experience looks at consumers even before they ever become members. This is “not just about the account opening experience but really breaking it down and looking at the consumer and bringing that holistic view” into everything the credit union does. There’s a lot of buzz about customer and member experience in the financial services world today. Hassemer says that’s because we’re entering a world in which customer experience is the only true differentiator.“You can try and compete on products and services, although I think it’s very difficult in the financial services industry to do that. Most of that becomes very commoditized. There’s only so much free checking or toasters that you can give away to get people in the door. Your product differentiation is kind of gone.“We’re also facing an unprecedented amount of competition in financial services. Not only are we getting competition from …  the mortgage lenders or the auto lenders, … but we also have just as much competition coming in from the technology organizations, these new fintech startups that are coming through. “The only way to stave that off is to have a uniquely strong customer experience to your members and make sure that relationship you’ve built with them withstands that test of all these other organizations trying to come in and steal them away from you.” The show also gets into:Examples of what a person’s first interaction with a credit union might look likeWhat expectations other companies are setting for customer experienceSteps for putting a superior customer experience in placeHow credit unions can assess where they are with their customer experience effortsAreas of customer experience in which credit unions excel—plus where they can improveHow to measure the “return on experience”The future of customer experience
$4.8 billion MSU Federal Credit Union, E. Lansing, Michigan, hires about 10 new staff members a month. The first question these employees tend to ask the organization’s president/CEO is, “When is everyone going to stop saying ‘hi’ to me?” or “When is it going to be real?”That president/CEO, CUES member April Clobes, explains in this episode of the CUES Podcast how she responds to such questions: “I tell them, ‘Nope, that’s the daily real. It continues if you continue it. How will you greet the next group of new employees?”Clobes says the credit union makes a concerted effort to have a stand-out culture—one that will both attract and retain employees. Something must be working because, in February, MSU FCU was named as one of the top 100 workplaces for women by Fortune magazine for the third consecutive year. It also has received numerous other awards for being a great place to work and its community involvement.“I get a lot of questions from employees about our culture and worrying that it’s going to change,” Clobes says in this episode. “Our culture continues to exist because we all add value to it. My role isn’t to be the full owner of the culture. But my role is to ensure that the culture and the values we set for our organization remain intact. I may have the hard job of saying, ‘We can’t do this,’ because it doesn’t reflect on our values and add to our culture. I have to ensure that we don’t let the edges erode.”In the episode, Clobes emphasizes that she believes MSU FCU is a great workplace for women because it is—by design—a great workplace for everyone. For example, MSU FCU supports resource groups for various populations among the staff, including African-Americans, members of the LGBTQIA community and working moms. “Those groups come together under employee leadership to make sure that we have programs and processes that are supportive of every person at the organization—so make sure we’re using clarifying language that is not skewed for one gender or another or one background or another or one ethnic group or another,” Clobes explains. “We really work with the employees to have diversity and inclusion be very important to our organization.“I think that translates in terms of being recognized as a great place to work for women,” she adds. “In my time working at the credit union, there’s always been more women employees here. I think the nature of the credit union industry attracts women for employment. Maybe what’s different at our organization … is that we have for a large credit union a reasonably high number of women in leadership positions. That comes from a philosophy of the board and my predecessor and myself that each person has an equal opportunity to be successful, so women have always been included. They’ve always been elevated to leadership. They’ve always been promoted. I think that translates to having more women in leadership and visibly shows employees that you also can achieve that role and success.”The show also gets into:The work involved in continuously cultivating a great cultureMSU FCU’s attractive-to-employees compensation and benefits programsWhy Clobes thinks the credit union industry as a whole is a great place to workA book Clobes recommendsThe value of reflection in leadership
CUES partnered with CUES Supplier member Currency to offer the annual CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec contest for almost a decade.But last year CUES and Currency took a year-long pause to make sure the program was keeping pace with CUES and how the organization is living out its mission to educate and develop credit union CEOs, executives, directors and future leaders.“We had a fantastic nine-year run,” says Tim McAlpine, president and creative director of Currency, Chilliwack, British Columbia of the Next Top Credit Union Exec contest. “But just like any good business…, it’s worthwhile to stop and say, ‘What could we improve?’ And rather than doing a minor tweak we, including CUES, Currency and especially John Pembroke your CEO, said … ‘We’ve changed so much at CUES this program should keep step with what we’re doing.’”McAlpine describes in this podcast how some participants in the Next Top Credit Union Exec contest would say they were looking forward to taking advantage of CUES professional development offerings after the contest was over—they were just too busy with contest items to do so right away. In their revamping of the offering, CUES and Currency looked to put education and development up front—and CUES Emerge does just that.CUES Emerge will be accepting applications through March 10, McAlpine notes. From those applications, 30 participants will be chosen. Participants will be signed up for three CUES Elite Access courses and three “mastermind” sessions, through which they’ll develop a business case submission and become eligible to earn the Certified Credit Union Manager (CCM) designation.If they wish, participants can ask to enter their developed cases into the competition phase of the program—which comes after this education phase, McAlpine explains. Five finalists will be selected, given coaching and mentorship. Three will be selected to win the prize of attendance at CUES School of Applied Strategic Management™,  April 27-30 in Orlando, which awards the Certified Senior Executive (CSE) designation to its graduates. Finally, the ultimate winner will be selected and will win the prize of attendance at CEO/Executive Team Network Nov. 2-4 in Austin, Texas.The show also gets into:Specifics of the highly relevant topics and the outstanding instructors that will lead the CUES Elite Access courses that are part of the CUES Emerge programDetails about the mastermind courses included in the CUES Emerge programHow participation in the CUES Emerge program is not limited by age Currency’s “It’s a Money Thing” offeringThe history of the Next Top Credit Union Exec contest, the precursor to CUES Emerge 
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