Credit Union Strategic Planning Facilitators Guide

Strategy Planning for Credit Unions

The leaves are falling. The smell of warm toner is in the air. Yup—it’s budget season, which means it’s also time for credit union strategic planning.

If you hate strategic planning at your credit union, or if you think off-site workshops that align stakeholder interests are pointless, then now’s your chance to escape.

However, if you’re a credit union board chair, CEO, or the person responsible for selecting a credit union strategic planning facilitator, then keep reading!


Credit Union Strategic Planning Facilitators

Every year, 3,000–4,000 credit unions embark on an annual ritual:

The think about the future, determine BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), and identify potential disruptions to their organization or the market in general.

Our experience comes from having been part of credit union strategic planning sessions at credit unions, fintechs, and CUSOs. Furthermore, we’ve participated as management, board chairs and members, and as facilitators. We’ve seen this issue from all sides.

There’s nothing worse than a facilitator that doesn’t understand our pain points. Ditto for our industry, our processes, and our underlying challenges from the past. It’s critical that any facilitator be familiar with credit unions and their issues, which may limit the field a bit.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of credit union strategic planning facilitators that “get it.”


1. CU Solutions Group (CUSG)

CUSG is a CUSO owned by the Michigan Credit Union League. They do a great job helping credit unions focus on how to restart growth and find the right products and services for your members. The process includes onsite facilitation, consumer research, business trend and disruptor identification, peer analysis, and best practices.


2. Dollar Associates

Dollar Associates is led by Dennis Dollar, the former board chair of the NCUA. Dollar Associates are highly knowledgeable on key issues such as mergers, fields of membership, and other legislative and political issues.

Their credit union strategic planning facilitators follow the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) approach to planning. Sessions include key information on the “condition and future of the credit union industry.”


3. Callahan & Associates

Callahan & Associates has a long history and background in the credit union industry—35 years, in fact. Callahan & Associates shows great peer-level data and analytics that provides critical insight and industry trends that help credit unions plan for the future.


4. C.Myers

C.Myers engages financial services leaders and their teams around strategic planning and business model optimization. Their visioning, leadership and board development, and emphasis on the steps and people needed to carry out a plan are top notch. C.Myers is focused on “creating relevancy, sustainability, differentiation” for their clients.


5. CU Strategic Planning

CU Strategic Planning is run by a team of industry experts, including Stacy Augustine (with strengths in policy development and governance) and Mike Beall (longtime industry expert and credit union knowledge source).

CU Strategic Planning focuses on reviewing financials and following structured, proven processes to develop strategies. Loans, growth, and profitability are key components of hiring CU Strategic Planning to be your facilitator.


6. Cornerstone Advisors

Cornerstone Advisors regularly helps credit unions develop and execute strategic plans. Their process is more in depth than many—it focuses on understanding the client, surveying executives and board members, performing an assessment, and ultimately facilitating the meeting.


7. CU Strategies

CU Strategies is run by Celeste Cook, a longtime credit union industry expert. She focuses on one- and two-day plans for credit unions. She works with teams to identify critical success factors (CSFs) around growth and retention. Celeste is big on accountability and highlights her approach to building tracking, goals, and benchmarks in her process.


8. Canidae Consulting LLC

Canidae Consulting provides “clever solutions to credit unions.” Their strategic planning sessions are designed to result in actionable plans that credit unions can carry out through the year. They also incorporate interviews from management, staff, and even members to paint a better picture of positioning, progress, and expectations.


9. CUXcel

CUXcel is led by Kevin Stang, who worked in credit union marketing before joining a credit union consulting firm. CUXcel specializes in remote strategic planning sessions for credit unions to accommodate social distancing needs and other disruptions to in-person meetings.


10.  Your Credit Union Partner

Your Credit Union Partner is a flexible, forward-looking facilitator. More than half of their clients are small- and mid-sized credit unions with limited budgets. Furthermore, they emphasize the future of banking, and they’re likely to discuss evolving payment systems, alternative financial products, and new technologies that may either disrupt traditional banking or change consumer preferences.


11. VolCorp

Volunteer Corporate Credit Union, or VolCorp, is a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned and directed wholly by its member credit unions. They currently serve over 330 credit unions across the US. Their strategic planning services are rooted in experience and high industry acumen. Their process is simple but effective—and conveniently laid out on their website.


12. CU 2.0

CU 2.0 has deep experience as credit union strategic planning facilitators. Kirk Drake and Chris Otey take a unique approach to planning sessions. Their goals are to deal with some real issues facing credit unions, including:

  • CUSO Strategies (investment, growth, diversification, etc.)
  • Improving board governance and alignment
  • Getting the board to look more like the membership
  • Dealing with the onslaught of fintechs and technology
  • Crypto, DeFi, and blockchain—credit unions are the secret crypto juggernaut
  • Changing CU culture to be more like a fintech

As the author of Credit Union 2.0, Financial, founder and former CEO of a large technology CUSO, founder of CU Wallet, and founder of the CUSO Painted Hills, Drake has great insights from his time working as an executive at a credit union, through his entrepreneurship, and from his board experience.

As Board Chair of South Bay Credit Union and former CU Wallet and Fiserv executive, Chris has worked with hundreds of credit unions to help them deal with board governance, CUSOs, and other technology challenges.

Both Drake and Otey consult with credit unions of all sizes across the country and speak often at conferences, events, and at credit unions.


CU 2.0 Strategic Planning Topics and Methodologies

For a closer look at CU 2.0’s strategic planning process, click here. For a closer look at some of CU 2.0’s strategic planning topics, click here. To see some of our greatest hits, keep reading!

  • DREAM: Differentiation, Repeat and Reinforce, Educate and Excite, Automate, and Motivate. CU 2.0’s DREAM approach digs into the member experience and solving problems associated with it to build the credit union of tomorrow.
  • Artificial Intelligence: after writing the book on AI in financial services, Kirk Drake now runs AI workshops, consultations, and presentations for credit unions. AI is a frequent topic and technology in CU 2.0’s credit union strategic planning sessions.
  • Blockchain, cryptocurrency, and DeFi: Drake is at the forefront of this technology as it gains traction among credit unions and regulators. CU 2.0 includes discussions on this topic often.
  • Fintech Crash Course: Overview of everything happening in the Fintech industry and examination of tons of creative ideas to reinvent your Credit Union.


Choosing Your Credit Union’s Strategic Planning Facilitator

No two strategic planning facilitators are exactly alike. Each has different strengths, experience, concerns, and approach.

We recommend speaking with a few different facilitators to get an idea of which provider will fit your credit union. Are you looking for a team that:

  • Is highly data driven?
  • Is rigid and structured, or agile?
  • Tend to be forward looking, or more technologically conservative?
  • Uses proven methods like SWOT?
  • Delivers detailed, actionable plans, or loose goals?
  • Works with many stakeholders or just top decision makers?

Additionally, planning sessions are most productive with engaging facilitators. Be sure to choose someone who meshes well with your credit union’s culture and who can inspire your organization to take the next steps forward.

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