What Do Credit Unions And Taylor Swift Have In Common?

Things have certainly changed since the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean the member experience isn’t just as good — if not better.

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a Taylor Swift fan. Her pop-music beats are great for keeping my feet going on long runs, especially up steep hills. But even if you don’t like Taylor Swift, I saw a lesson in her newly released album that reflects what I’m also seeing at credit unions today.

In the past several months, both Taylor Swift and credit unions proved they can improvise on the fly and make beautiful music when the band stops playing.

OK, that pushes the metaphor a bit. But there are lessons for the credit union movement in how the pop megastar and a number of cooperatives have both navigated the pandemic shutdown while doing their jobs not just well but better.

On July 24, Swift released a new album folklore which she produced during the first few months of quarantine. In a subsequent tweet, she offered some context for the new album release: Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening, but there is something I hadn’t planned on that DID happen. And that thing is my 8th studio album.

You can relate to things happening that weren’t in your strategic plans or on your Outlook calendars at the beginning of 2020, can’t you?

That same tweet continues: Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the perfect time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed. My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world. That’s the side of uncertainty I can get on board with.

On Board With Uncertainty

Credit union decision-makers with millions of members needing their cooperatives as much as ever before and more than ever before for many didn’t have time to write and rewrite contingency plans.

They simply had to respond. For many, that meant transforming overnight from in-person to remote-service shops as doors slammed shut in branches and thousands of tellers became contact center representatives.

Along with the technology challenges, lenders accustomed to having at least a bit of time to make decisions found themselves processing PPP loans at a pace that would make a robo-foreclosing shop proud. Of course, there’s one large difference between credit unions and auto-signatories: intent.

Just as Swift publicly shares her love for her fans like most successful artists know full well to do and says they inspire her, credit unions were motivated by their members and determined to do what they could for members financial wellbeing.

In the past several months, both Taylor Swift and credit unions proved they can improvise on the fly and make beautiful music when the band stops playing.

Alix Patterson, Chief Experience Officer, Callahan & Associates

Remember, a large number of credit unions that took on PPP loans didn’t have to. In fact, many had never handled SBA loans but were stepping in because local business owners desperately needed the service and banks equally overwhelmed, in all fairness were turning down folks without existing relationships.

And what have we heard from executives thrown for a loop?

Efficiencies where they didn’t expect them!

New ways to serve members!

Members embracing new channels!

This might not be the story you set out to write in January, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great one.

Working Together While Alone

Although Swift was working in isolation at her home studio or other locations, she was not working alone. She had collaborators, top-flight musicians and songwriters, video people, and engineers who helped her execute her vision. But, they had to find ways to do that without working in the million-dollar recording studios to which they were accustomed.

Same with credit unions. They relied on dedicated staff to display extreme flexibility and talent and improvise new ways to provide the member-first service that has marked the movement’s success from its earliest days. From taking calls from the kitchen table to processing curbside mortgage closings, credit unions created new solutions to do exactly what they did before serve members.

Share The Story

Lastly, Swift wasn’t afraid of the challenge. She embraced the opportunity, and therein lies a fresh lesson for credit unions that already know how to serve with limited resources: It’s about telling your story in new ways.

Maybe Taylor Swift couldn’t produce her big production numbers, but she could lay bare her emotions through music. That’s what she’s known for, and sometimes maligned for, and that’s exactly what she did. Although she reinvented her sound again she has transitioned from country to pop and from pop to now alt-folk her underlying connection with her listeners is still there.

And that seems like something credit unions can do as they continue to navigate this new normal.

Members, and potential members, don’t care how their credit union secured a VPN to ensure a teller could handle a transaction from a laptop at home. And verbiage like a forbearance that defers said obligation for 90 days doesn’t mean nearly as much as more direct language. Phrasing that, like Taylor Swift did with her latest album, frames the story from the listener’s perspective. Language like,My credit union helped save my home while I was out of work.

And that’s just one verse.

Hire Alix For Your Next Strategic Engagement

Alix has dedicated more than 20 years to helping credit union and supplier organizations. Alix can be found speaking at credit union conferences, facilitating strategic planning sessions, and hosting webinars. Learn more about Alix and bring her onboard to facilitate your next meeting, event, or engagement.

Meet Alix

This article appeared originally in Credit Union Strategy & Performance. Read More Today.

September 28, 2020

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