Self-Service, Niche Communities, And Asset Quality

Five can't-miss data points this week on

This week, searches for the self-service member, identifies ways to serve a niche community, considers asset quality in the current economic environment, and more.

Here are five can’t-miss data points:


A self-sufficient member is a good thing. Do-it-yourself folks don’t need expensive help, are more likely to be satisfied, and are sticky they are in it for the long run with their favorite financial cooperative. As long as that cooperative is meeting their needs. So, how do credit unions ensure they meet the needs of members? Two leading cooperatives Langley Federal Credit Union and Wright-Patt Credit Union have found that technology and education are two key ingredients in creating a corps of self-sufficient member-owners.

Read: In Search Of The Self-Service Member


Everence Federal Credit Union serves Amish, Mennonite, and Anabaptist groups across the country. The credit union is the banking arm of Everence, a fraternal benefits organization that provides faith and values-based investments, insurance, and retirement plans. Both Everence and Everence FCU help people and institutions integrate faith and values into financial decisions that ultimately support people, places, and communities. Here, Kent Hartzler, CEO of Everence FCU, shares what he’s learned about serving niche communities and why his cooperative’s mission is more relevant to a broader group of consumers than ever before.

Read: Tried-And-True Tips To Serve A Niche Community


The new managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, revealed striking statistics at the institution’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, in October. Two years ago, 75% of the world’s nations reported an uptick in their gross domestic product (GDP). In 2019, 90% face a major slowdown as measured by purchasing power parity. What might happen to a credit union’s loan portfolio if economic conditions in the United States shifted abruptly? Callahan & Associates is not in the business of predicting recessions; however, the firm can help credit unions determine whether the loans they have on the books or are planning to make are good for individual members as well as the overall membership. One way to do that is by looking at asset quality, how credit unions are hedging for the future, and where the U.S. economy is heading.

Read: Are Your Loans Good For Members?


Technological innovation is changing the way consumers experience the world and creating tremendous opportunities (and challenges) in the financial services landscape by fundamentally changing how members interact with the credit union and one other. In this climate of constant change, how can credit unions leverage the latest technology to provide amazing products and services? Credit union technologists and business leaders of all technical abilities traveled from across the country to San Diego for the Symitar Educational Conference (SEC) to find out. The event delved into the ever-evolving technology landscape surrounding the credit union industry, and sessions covered a range of topics, from loan growth to deposit acquisition, helping members achieve financial success to achieving greater operational efficiency. Despite the varied agenda, four key themes emerged.

Read: A Place For AI At The CU

1 – 100

The credit union movement prides itself on offering superior rates, products, and services to its member-owners, but quantifying the value inherent in cooperative strategies can be tricky. The Return of the Member (ROM) index is one way to do that. ROM is a comprehensive metric that uses 5300 data from all U.S. credit unions to quantify the value credit unions return to members. Designed by Callahan & Associates more than 20 years ago, ROM assigns every credit union in the United States a value between 1 and 100 based on three core functions savings, lending, and product usage. Credit unions can use ROM to compare their performance against any peer group such as asset base or state to calculate a percentile rank and overall final score. Callahan regularly reviews ROM data to see how credit unions of similar sizes compare against one another. Where do you rank?

Read: A Method To Measure Member Relationships

Happy Reading!

Conferences. Webinars. Books. Presentations. There are plenty of ways to learn about industry best practices or tackle a new skill. With so many choices, though, it can be difficult to narrow down the best option and decide where to allocate a budget.

Listening to and collaborating with other people, especially in your field of expertise, is a great way to learn about what’s happening within an industry and become inspired about what could happen. However, aside from networking dinners and large industry conferences, there aren’t many credit union events dedicated solely to group collaboration.

Callahan & Associates is changing that. Since 2011, the firm has been bringing together like-minded industry executives for a day-and-a-half roundtable chock-full of networking and brainstorming opportunities.

Callahan’s Executive Roundtables offer attendees the chance to learn from one another in a safe, confidential environment. Attendees determine the agenda and steer the direction of the discussion, which remains within the group. What’s said at the roundtable stays at the roundtable.

In 2019, Callahan hosted 19 roundtables in eight cities across the country. Business areas encompassed the whole credit union from HR to finance, marketing to risk, lending to member experience, and more.

Best Practices And Beyond

What’s said at a Callahan Executive Roundtable stays at the roundtable; however, some practices have been so popular that leaders have agreed to share their insight with Read three of those stories here:

  • A Reward That Takes The Cents Out Of Incentive
  • A Simple Rate Strategy To Raise Deposits
  • Truity Takes The Pain Out Of Pre-Approvals

The specific takeaways from these interactive, engaging events are off the record remember, what’s said at the roundtable stays there but take a look at these high-level topics discussed at each event to see what was on the minds of leaders in your area of expertise in 2019.


Board governance, leadership development, succession planning, small business services, and business lending were all topics of discussion for CEOs across 2019.


Driving a data-driven culture Many credit unions are deploying creative ways to educate staff and encourage a data mindset. They’re also providing use cases to demonstrate the power of data with an end goal of having everyone onboard and participating in the data initiative.

Providing organizational value Analytics is still a fairly new role that comes with a hefty price tag. Credit union leaders stress the importance of feedback, both to and from business units, in determining where business units can improve and what departments need.

Lending And Consumer Lending

Direct versus indirect lending Both lending strategies have their own challenges. Indirect lending, as always, is a hot button issue. Some credit unions are pulling back from indirect lending, whereas others have implemented successful strategies and approaches that maximize the channel.

Developing a lending team Many credit unions are having a difficult time finding the perfect external candidate to fill senior positions on the lending team. So, they’ve began grooming talent from within. Incentives and training programs that leverage and develop internal talent were areas of great interest at Callahan’s roundtables.


Branch design and technology The evolution and proliferation of technology combined with the question of whether brick-and-mortar branches are still necessary are pushing cooperatives to evaluate their branching options. Some are handing out tablets on which members complete loan applications during heavy wait times; others are testing video chat capabilities that allow staffers to work with members at home. And still other credit unions are implementing double-stacked drive-thru .

Training and onboarding Credit unions are exploring different ways to train and develop staff members. Tactics include establishing a career path for branch staff to move up a grade, offering more frequent performance reviews, and implementing training programs that bring in an outside resource to rate the new employee after a set amount of time.


Video, video, video Credit union marketers are engaging members via video. Cost can be a barrier, but roundtable attendees shared ways they are using existing talent including interns as well as full-time in-house staff to create professionally polished videos

Generating content Creating quality content and deciding what to promote presents a challenge at many institutions. Roundtable attendees shared the clever ways their credit unions ensure they’ve got fresh, creative content. One relies on games and other activities to solicit member feedback and identify knowledge gaps, then uses that intel to determine the best ways to fill gaps and tailor content.


Raising deposits Liquidity is tight, and credit unions are staring down the good, the bad, and the ugly of high-rate CD and other account promotions aimed at bringing in member and non-member deposits.

Organizing analytics and business intelligence As more credit unions invest in data analytics, debate abounds about where in the organization it should live, what kind of reports it should produce, and what kind of software it should use.

Human Resources

Planning for succession Clear communication and a solid framework is key to implementing an effective succession strategy. Finding a candidate who is the perfect cultural fit presents more of a challenge. Two popular succession strategies discussed at Callahan’s roundtables include implementing a nine-box grid assessment tool to identify potential leaders and developing a new value statement to help executives refocus on culture after the departure of a beloved CEO.

Managing performance Is the annual review dead? Some credit unions think so and are replacing traditional performance evaluations with developmental and coaching plans, manager training programs, employee discussions about salary and requirements, and more.


Structure The role of risk management changes across credit unions, especially in regard to what the role does, who it involves, and where it reports.

Creating risk appetite statements Cooperatives have many different best practices for preparing the most effective risk appetite statements, from designating specialized roles to implementing risk steering committees. Format recommendations vary as well.


Prioritizing projects Opportunities abound in the technology space, so how are credit unions prioritizing projects? Some are deploying strategic project teams; others are using cross-departmental committees to review projects. Some are embracing the idea of not having a strategy and opting to take it 30 days at a time. Attendees at Callahan’s roundtables explored these methods and more.

Managing resource allocation In addition to prioritizing projects, determining where to invest resources can be challenging, too. One roundtable participant shared how their credit union adopted an agile methodology to ensure continuous improvement across the credit union and looked to a Strategic Advisory Committee that meets monthly to prioritize companywide projects. Another participant uses the tool Liquid Planner to track time spent on operations versus projects and determine the best way to allocate team resources and ma ximize efficiency.

Contact Center

Aligning success metrics and KPIs with member service Many credit unions have at least a loose definition of what call center success looks like, and that definition tends to include metrics such as service scores, handle times, referrals, and attendance. One roundtable attendee sets an expected average (number of calls per day, occupancy time, talk time, etc.) and says the average will even out over time even if a single call takes longer or a member needs special attention. Another attendee tracks metrics by agent, puts the metrics into a scorecard, and distributes scores every month. The manager uses the score to guide development, coaching, and check-ins.

Managing career progression and engagement Credit union strategies to foster satisfied, engaged employees include dedicating a committee to planning team activities, pulling contact center staff members into day-to-day decision making so they understand where they fit into the organization, and conducting 90-day retention interviews to touch base on expectations and long-term goals.

Member Experience

Measuring member experience Credit unions are using qualitative and quantitative surveys to measure member satisfaction, loyalty, and effort. Some have even created managerial-level roles dedicated to managing surveys and analyzing results.

Process improvements and journey mapping These two similar-yet-different approaches allow credit unions to identify where frictions and pain points exist. Journey mapping puts the credit union in the member’s shoes to experience different processes end-to-end. Process improvement teams pick apart processes to uncover inefficiencies that impact the member experience.

Callahan has released the calendar for next year’s Executive Roundtables* and we are excited to see how the conversations develop. Want to join in for 2020? View the calendar and event details here. We hope to see you on the road next year.

*Executive Roundtables are exclusively available to credit unions over $200m assets and with access to Roundtables as part of their Callahan subscription. Interested in joining the network? Learn more here.

October 28, 2019

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