Goodbye, 1900s. Hello, new. Here is what I believe lies ahead,
and what I hope for. A new vision for credit unions. A new level
of cooperation and interaction that will energize the movement as
it has not been since the 1930s.
Here is what I see.
1) The vast expansion of the "Internet Branch" of
a credit union.
People will flock to the Internet Branch because of the convenience.
They will be buying products through the branch and many will be
running their entire financial lives through it as well.
2) Interconnected brick and mortar.
Brick and mortar sites will survive, but each will be able to serve
any credit union member no matter where the member is or to which
credit union the member belongs. In other words, all branches will
be shared, though under the control of "lead" credit unions.
A major reason this has not yet happened is the sluggishness --
maybe worse -- of our data processors. We have to get them off the
dime. We have to gain control of our own interface and not be slaves
to the providers. Fortunately, a breakthrough is near. We should
hasten it and create the day of simple, inexpensive interconnectivity.
A credit union member should be able to walk into a credit union
service center anywhere on the planet and feel partly it is his
and get the same great service he would if he were in the branch
closest to his home or office.
3) Credit unions will be transactioners and recordkeepers even
more than providers.
Credit unions will continue to offer traditional products and services,
ones overseen by credit union regulators. But this will comprise
a mere fraction of the transactions that credit unions will conduct.
Members will manage their entire financial lives through their credit
The reasons will owe to trust and convenience. Convenience because
all of the records of their financial lives will be available to
them in the blink of an eye, plus receipts, proofs of purchase,
borrowing histories and so on. Whereas today a member balances his
checkbook, tomorrow he can "balance" his financial life
through his credit union, instantly knowing his net worth and so
on. The credit union will not just be the "primary financial
institution" but the only one he will need. The link between
the member and the credit union will be all encompassing.
Credit unions are uniquely positioned to be the only channel for
members for all their financial services because we enjoy a higher
level of trust than rival institutions from those who deal with
4) Management style will necessarily be broader.
No longer will managers be able to content themselves merely with
savings and checking accounts, borrowings and lendings. They will
have to master the whole gamut of the financial world -- stocks,
annuities, bonds, mutual funds, exotic mortgages -- because they
will be the channel through which the members act to deal with it.
Now the question arises: How do we get there? The answer is: Not
with those content with tinkering at the margins but with those
eager to get on with the new.
Only those who are going to be dynamic are going to get the job
done. They are going to be the pioneers who will take the risks
that will open the paths to genuine progress in a competitive world.
Run with these people, or if you can't run with them at the moment,
at least support them and join when you can. Unfortunately there
is the notion among many credit unions that they should be both
fiercely independent and at the same time surrender decisions about
the future to trade associations. Find people who have climbed out
of such notions. It's out of the smaller groups of dynamic people,
not the larger bodies of institutions, that the most rapid and sweeping
Find them. Help them. We have the power to make ours a movement
once again, a real force for the improvement in the financial lives
of ordinary Americans. Let's do it.