Strategies for the Credit Union CEO of Tomorrow

Credit union ceo strategy from cu 2.0 and om financial group

This piece is based off of a roundtable discussion at the CU 2.0 Brainstorm Event in July 2021. It is not intended to be comprehensive—rather, it will provide a cursory introduction to credit union CEO strategy.

Today’s credit union CEOs must recognize that everything has changed in the last 10 years. There are major differences even from 4–5 years ago. And not just from COVID—digital growth, tools, and data have changed how credit unions operate.

With AI, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and remote work, change will continue at a breakneck pace. Here’s what tomorrow’s credit union leaders need to know today.

Join the next Brainstorm Event here:


Find Your Strategic Growth Imperative

Kirk Kordeleski is the former CEO of Bethpage CU and current partner at the OM Financial Group consultancy. He specializes in driving growth through a variety of strategic initiatives.

Powering all those initiatives is what he calls a “strategic growth imperative.”

That is, the credit union must operate with a real, tangible goal in mind. Simply saying “let’s grow,” or “let’s have good rates,” or “let’s perform well” won’t do. They’re not definite goals.

Instead, leaders should pursue quantifiable goals, such as doubling in size every 5 years.

See, leaders must have an absolute commitment to their goal. If it’s not doubling in size (that was Kordeleski’s goal at Bethpage, which he achieved), then it must be something market-leading. It’s not enough to be good—you must try to be the best. You must win… beat all of your competition at something.

Kordeleski says that if a credit union’s current leaders aren’t comfortable running an organization 50% larger, then they’re fit to be on the growth team. Here’s what leaders can do to get there—or stay there:


1.    Options, Strategy, and Agility

Kordeleski notes that credit unions are in a uniquely challenging position: “You can’t predict the future and you don’t have the resources to be leading edge.”

But there’s something you can do about each…

First, you don’t have to predict the future. All you need to do is remain agile. Be ready to pivot as needed and lean into change as it comes. Kordeleski says that agility is the most important skill for credit unions and their leaders to develop.

Second, you don’t need to be leading edge—you need to partner with organizations that are. Invest in fintechs, vendors, and strategic partners. Most will fail, a few will be mediocre, and one or two will succeed.

Try many of them (10/year is good). Fail forward fast. Just know when to cut things short when they’re not working.


2.    Business Intelligence

New banks and fintechs accept business analytics, intelligence, and digitization. They’re matching credit unions’ former #1 spot for consumer experience.

The whole emphasis on “member value” for the last 60–70 years was about 1:1 personal interaction. That has changed!

The value today comes from data creating that personalization.

Today, credit unions generate a huge amount of data. In the right hands—and with the right tools—that data provides more than actionable insights… it also offers a new degree of personalization, convenience, and options.

Credit unions must welcome business intelligence into their culture.


3.    Digital Culture

Boston Consulting Group found that nearly 80% of companies that focused on culture were able to sustain strong performance. They say breakthroughs and outstanding financial results.

Clearly, culture is a key factor in determining the direction of any organization.

So, credit unions must incorporate a digital-first mindset into the culture. Create end-to-end member journeys. Ensure members can meet needs and solve their own problems digitally… through any channel.

Don’t make them jump through hoops (like visit a branch or speak with a member service representative)!

To compete with other institutions, credit union leaders must embrace digital culture. Agility, fintech partnerships, and business intelligence (data) will make it possible.


Next Steps for Credit Unions

CU 2.0 provides strategic planning services to credit unions that value digital transformation. CU 2.0 also offers consulting about fintechs and technology vendors.

Join our Fintech Call Program for an overview of the latest solutions and trends in the marketplace. Or contact us to discuss strategic planning or consulting opportunities.

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