Fundamentals, or the Future... or Both?

Credit union CEOs have two jobs. One is running the credit union, assuring that the fundamentals are in order and that members are well satisfied. The other is making sure the credit union is not swamped in the recurring crashing waves of the future but rather is prepared for the future by evaluating new technologies and partnering with entities that will assure the credit union is — if not just out ahead of the crest of the wave of the future — then at least near enough to be carried along without being left behind nor crushed.

 
 

This Article first appeared in the January 2001 issue of the Callahan Report

Credit union CEOs have two jobs. One is running the credit union, assuring that the fundamentals are in order and that members are well satisfied. The other is making sure the credit union is not swamped in the recurring crashing waves of the future but rather is prepared for the future by evaluating new technologies and partnering with entities that will assure the credit union is — if not just out ahead of the crest of the wave of the future — then at least near enough to be carried along without being left behind nor crushed.

These are two jobs, two occupations, both full-time. If one is a 40-hour-(ha!)-a-week job, then the two jobs together make 80 hours. There is not enough time in a day to do both well. And yet both must be done well.

Someone might say that one job is more important than the other, that assuring good fundamentals is the more essential because if the fundamentals go south then there won’t be any credit union left to steer into the future. Someone else might say that leading the credit union into the future is more important because if you cannot lead then the credit union will end up just as dead as if the fundamentals went bad.

Of course, they are both right, which is why every credit union CEO has two vital occupations, neither one of which can be neglected. This is the reality of credit union CEOs today.

One Huge Job After Another

I am looking at the two busiest, most diverse months in my experience as a credit union CEO. The demands on my time are tremendous, first at the credit union, but also time spent at conferences, committee meetings, strategy sessions and the like.

I actually thought this was going to be a relatively quiet period. Naively, I thought that after H. R. 1151, I would be able to turn my attention to tackle some long-neglected affairs. But just as soon as 1151 ended, my energies were enveloped by the Y2K problem.

Is it ever possible to run fast enough to do all the things your heart knows has to happen if you are going to help the credit union move forward to fulfill its potential? There never seems to be.

Fundamentals


But while all this anxiety is going on over finding the proper ways to meet the legal environment, computer problems and competitions of the future, there are the fundamentals to worry about. Is the credit union growing sufficiently? Are members satisfied? Are enough loans being made, and are they good loans? Is the delinquency rate low? Is the capital ratio high enough?

We tend to have a notion that running a credit union is like building a pyramid, that the effort is always upward. In reality, doing a good job of running a credit union is cyclical. You have to go back to look at and struggle with things you worked on a year before. These are the fundamentals. If you don’t pay attention to them, they will turn bad on you in a hurry.

But the expectation level in the financial institution field is amazing. If I get all the fundamentals running the way they should, members will still get sucked away from the organization if a better product or service comes along. I have to prepare for future competition. Thus simultaneously I have to harvest the trees I planted in the past and plant the trees that I will be harvesting 20 years from now. Generally this means going outside the credit union in search of other intellects and energies compatible with ours in order to be able to put new products and services to work for members.

Evidence of Interdependence

In a way this is all healthy. The fact that I am drawn out of the credit union to help plan for the future says to me that I work in an interdependent environment. It says I am not in a stand-alone enterprise but have to exchange ideas with others. Generally, it is in these exchanges that the good ideas bubble up, the breakthroughs are made, the synergies are detected and new goals are established.

So it goes. We need two hours for every one we get. That’s just the way it is. The pace is terrific, and I have to accept it. I do accept it. And if I am forced to do two things, I also have the satisfaction of doing two things: helping to run an outstanding credit union at the same time as working to make the credit union movement even better for the future.

 

 

 

April 30, 2001


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