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 Facilitator Overview
This 2.0 Guide is intended to offer some insight and perspective on credit union strategic planning. It will discuss the process, strategy, and focus of strategic planning activities, including the topics, questions, and outcomes that you might expect from a facilitator.
CU 2.0’s expertise on credit union strategic planning comes from having been part of these sessions at countless credit unions, fintechs, and CUSOs. Furthermore, we’ve participated as management, board chairs and members, and as facilitators. In short, we’ve seen it from all sides.
It’s possible to find strategic planning help that doesn’t include a facilitator. We don’t recommend this because having an experienced person in the room is critical for high-level planning and problem solving. We also recommend against finding a facilitator without extensive credit union experience.
Finally, unlike our other guides, CU 2.0 provides this service. Consequently, now more than ever, it’s important for us to reiterate that our fintech ratings are not evaluations of quality, but are rather intended to help your credit union find the best fit. We understand that CU 2.0’s strategic planning process, strategy, and focus may not be the right fit for your credit union.
Credit Union Strategic Planning Trends and Statistics
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 trends and statistics that we’ve found through the years.
1. New Technologies
The world of technology is quickly getting complex. Whereas artificial intelligence (AI) was a faraway dream to most credit unions a few years ago, using it today is nearly a strategic imperative.
What is your credit union’s relationship to new and emerging technologies? How will you vet and perform due diligence on technology vendors? How can you streamline scouting, onboarding, and deployment to keep pace with competitors and consumer demand?
2. Topical Variety
No strategic planning session should cover just a single topic. You may need to discuss:
- Growth strategy and goals.
- Mergers, acquisitions, and the competitive landscape.
- Personalization and the member experience.
- Financial wellness and education.
- Regulatory compliance and risk management.
- Technology investment and development.
- Environmental, social, governance, and community impact and engagement.
- Business continuity planning.
Some facilitators are more directive, while others are more participatory. If you work with the former, ensure beforehand that they’ll cover all necessary angles. If you work with the latter, be prepared to bring up any of the above in the meeting.
3. Proven Process
Strategic planning is an adaptive exercise that empowers an organization to focus on taking small steps toward big goals. In extreme terms, strategic planning is the practice of creating order in spite of chaos. Consider the last few years:
- Pandemic with remote work and new service delivery strategies.
- The boom and bust of cryptocurrency.
- Deployment-ready AI in multiple departments.
- High inflation, high rates, and liquidity issues.
While the financial world changes, credit unions must react appropriately and modify their strategy to suit. However, it’s critical that the process by which they change their strategy stays consistent. When you choose a facilitator, make sure you choose one that can work with the process you’ve established or who will help you establish a process for the future.
CU Strategic Planning Evaluation Strategies
Not all strategic planning facilitators work in the same way, nor do all deliver the same results. For example, some facilitators will write long reports about what your credit union currently looks like and where it could go. Others will focus more on collaborative meetings, bringing structure, guidance, and opportunities to your leadership meeting.
When selecting a strategic planning facilitator, it’s important for credit unions to find a professional who can help them develop a clear and effective plan for future growth. Here are some ways to evaluate potential facilitators:
Do you want thorough and explicit documentation of the meeting? Do you need meeting minutes? Will the facilitator provide notes on key discussions, takeaways, and recommendations?
What importance does the facilitator place on digital transformation? Can the facilitator help you find a road to your goals that meets your appetite or capacity for onboarding new solutions?
Does the facilitator have a strong track record in working with credit unions of similar size and complexity?
Does the facilitator’s approach to strategic planning align with your credit union’s culture and objectives? Are they prepare for assessment, goal-setting, action planning, and monitoring progress?
Will the facilitator tailor their approach to your credit union? Can they accommodate unique challenges or changes in the process?
Does the facilitator mesh with your team and your culture? Do they promote the kind of collaboration and open discussion you’re used to?
Can the facilitator point to other credit unions or organizations that have worked with them? Does it sound like they’ll work for you as well?
Will the facilitator offer post-planning support? If so, how much? Can you expect assistance with implementation, monitoring progress, and updating the strategic plan?
CU Strategic Planning Facilitator Ratings and Methodology
CU 2.0 usually includes 2 different rating methodologies. The first helps credit unions understand whether the vendor competes with credit unions, sells to them, or partners with them for mutual success.
The second methodology rates a few different vendor attributes on a 0–3 scale to help credit unions determine fit.
This guide doesn’t use our typical ratings or methodology. Instead, it uses short descriptions that highlight the strengths, histories, and focuses of different strategic planning facilitators. CU 2.0 knows many of these vendors personally and would be happy to recommend a facilitator that meets your needs.
Credit Union Strategic Planning Facilitator Guide
The following facilitators are listed alphabetically. These aren’t ranking of quality, nor are they recommendations—they’re meant only to serve as a starting point in your research to improve your credit union’s next strategic planning session.
Trusted solutions are highlighted with an asterisk—these are facilitators that CU 2.0 has vetted personally.
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|CU 2.0*||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, artificial intelligence (AI), digital transformation, and changing CU culture to be more like a fintech.|
|CU Innovate||Stacie VanDenBergh and CU Innovate offer credit union strategic planning sessions that follow a proven, repeatable process that lead to growth and success. Additionally, CU Innovate will analyze your key financial ratios, balance sheet and income statement trends to provide peer analysis, benchmarking, and recommendations.|
|CU Solutions Group||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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.”|
|Kathy Darwin||Kathy’s approach to strategic planning for credit unions and non-profits is grounded in efficiency and outcomes, above all else. Instead of a one-time, intensive planning session that leaves you with no real follow-up actions, Kathy monitors your business’s progress throughout the whole year.|
|On the Mark Strategies||On the Mark Strategies has a dedicated credit union strategic planning department with the goals of uniting the leadership team and board, focusing on strategic initiatives, and creating an actionable growth plan.|
|Strategic Resource Management (SRM)||SRM recently acquired Sievewright & Associates, a credit union strategic consulting firm. They include vision and mission, business growth strategies, member engagement strategies, technology and operations strategies, financial plans, and staffing needs.|
|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.|
|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.|
About CU 2.0’s Strategic Planning
CU 2.0 Co-Founders Kirk Drake and Chris Otey provide strategic planning services for credit unions. Some of their strategic considerations include:
- 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
Both Drake and Otey have worked in and with credit unions for decades, and both have extensive history founding or working with fintechs and CUSOs. Drake’s time as a credit union executive and board member, and Otey’s years as a credit union Board Chair, have given them deep insight into the inner workings and needs of credit unions, especially when it comes to digital transformation and growth.
Choosing the right partners to leverage fintech lending capabilities and efficiencies will depend on your goals, budget, timeline, and other factors. CU 2.0 can help in the following ways:
- Join our Fintech Call Program. In quarterly 30-minute calls, we’ll discuss in depth new and innovative fintech solutions that fit your credit union’s needs. We can also help you review other solutions you’re looking at.
- Ask for an introduction. We maintain relationships with most or all of the vendors rated above. We would be happy to give you a warm introduction to any we can on the list.
- Book a consultation. CU 2.0 offers technology and fintech consultations and reviews to identify best-fit solutions for your credit union.