4 Ways To Make The Most Of Strategic Planning Meetings

From months of planning to guest speakers from the industry, these credit unions know how to prepare for the biggest meeting of the year.

Strategic planning meetings offer a small window of opportunity for executives and boards to discuss market and institutional realities and plan for the future. They are critical sessions that are all too often condensed into 48 hours toward the end of the year. When time is of the essence, here are four ways to create a more efficient and productive annual planning meeting.

1. Plan Before The Planning Meeting

Strategic planning meetings are ticking clocks. Participants must cover an immense amount of information, and conversation is better spent as a dialog rather than a tutorial.

Financial Partners Credit Union ($900M Downey, CA) and California Coast Credit Union ($1.8B, San Diego, CA) start prepping for their yearly meetings held in August and September, respectively as early as March.


Financial Partners CU
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: Downey, CA
MEMBERS: 72,897
ROA: 0.36%

As part of a larger report, Financial Partners creates a whitepaper in advance of its strategic planning meeting that describes how the credit union is performing in reference to its strategic plan. The whitepaper gives the cooperative a chance to layout all the challenges and opportunities before the credit union, says Nader Moghaddam, chief executive of Financial Partners.That’s a five-month planning process, says Todd Lane, chief financial officer at California Coast. We put some flesh to challenges we see both internally and externally, and we’re then in a position to present to our board what we think we need to do to achieve our mission and vision.

With this information, each credit union can spend less time reviewing the past and more time focusing on the future.

I think some boards get caught up looking in the rearview mirror, Lane says. We’re trying to emphasize where we’re going and the challenges we see going forward.

2. Be Timely, Be Current

On September 9, tech giant Apple announced the launch of Apple Pay, spurring discussion about the potential disruptive affect the technology would have on the credit union industry.


California Coast CU
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: San Diego, CA
MEMBERS: 155,728
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 19.2%
ROA: 0.670%

For its 2014 board strategic planning session, California Coast had booked a speaker from Fiserv to discuss the e-wallet impact on financial institutions. On a recommendation from its board, the credit union asked the speaker to slightly modify her presentation to cover the introduction of Apple Pay. It’s a lesson in timeliness present the most current and relevant information to provide the most value but also in active observation.On September 9, tech giant Apple announced the launch of Apple Pay, spurring discussion about the potential disruptive affect the technology would have on the credit union industry.

California Coast’s board members are aware of shifts in technology and regulations and how these changes relate to the credit union’s membership.

They were aware of Apple Pay, that a handful of financial institutions had worked with it on a collaborative basis, and that we’re going down that path, Lane says. They understood the benefits of Apple Pay in terms of security and tokenization and biometrics.

Encouraging the board to stay up-to-date with changes in financial services improves board strategic planning meetings. When the board is knowledgeable and engaged, the meeting can focus more on the future.

3. Develop A Succession Plan

The average credit union board member is a 61-year-old man, according to CUNA. These board members will start retiring in the near future, forcing credit unions to find qualified replacements.

Our board hears what we think all the time so we ask industry experts to share their opinion with our board.

Many credit unions have an associate board whose members do not vote but who do participate in the governance process in other ways. They are essentially board-members-in-waiting. When board members retire, a stable of associate members are prepared to take over.

When new members join the board, the credit union must teach them about the operations of the position. Sometimes this process is smooth, other times not. To give its associates an edge, Financial Partners invites them to its board strategic planning session.


Having associate board members attend the annual planning meeting not only aids in succession planning but also encourages a higher level of conversation at the event. Financial Partners finds that its associates enrich the strategic discussion by the virtue of their quality and background which includes a chief medical officer, a Stanford professor, and a former town mayor, Moghaddam says.

4. Build On The Benefits Of External Presenters

Credit unions have a lot to consider when setting up an annual strategic planning meeting, deciding between internal and external subject matter experts is chief among them. Although it’s more expensive, the value in bringing someone from the outside often pays the most dividends.

Executives and board members work together on an infrequent basis, but even a small amount of familiarity can undercut the presenting executive’s authority and expertise, Lane says. And according to Lane, executives who are in facilitative positions find it difficult to interject opinions and thoughts into strategic discussions because they are occupied with keeping discussions on topic and on schedule.

Both California Coast and Financial Partners have brought in external presenters and facilitators such as industry consultants, economists from Beacon, analysts from Raddon, and even credit union chief executives and league presidents.

Our board hears what we think all the time, Lane says. So we ask industry experts to share their opinion with our board. This allows our board to have a direct dialogue with them instead of us.

Are You Ready For Strategic Planning?

The most effective planning sessions require prep work, sharp focus, and a true understanding of your credit union’s place in the market.

Use this set of essential performance ratios for strategic planning to make the most of your team’s time together.



November 24, 2014

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