Be careful not to dismiss ownership as some inconsequential detail on the path to success
I received a comment from Gregg Stockdale on my last piece, “The risks of vendor consolidation on the credit union industry“. In it he wrote:
“What disrupter of the credit union industry followed this model? -“Only ownership can prioritize disruption of the status quo, competitors and the core of innovation. Cooperative ownership of our solutions is the key” Also, “Protecting the decisions and mechanisms for maintaining our differential is the mandate for the future” – What differential? Other than ownership, how is a cu different from a bank? Cu’s are very bank-like and banks have become cu-like in their service offerings. The big disrupters have come from outside the entire industry and many are privately owned.”
I agree whether a CUSO, CU, or any other company is a disrupter can be difficult to identify without close examination. But I contend there are many in the CUSO space as vendors, and in the credit union space, when they are judged locally by their consumer-owners (members) who meet or surpass the bar for disruption. Where I think Gregg was off track is his MACRO EXPECTATIONS from these ideas. He dismisses CU ownership as the DIFFERENTIAL that counts. It does count, and it should. Credit unions represent consumer owners, citizen ownership, and ultimately the best of community ownership model in society. Our economy and government should be more aware of that and be more demanding of that differential. If they were, it would be more than just an internal goal of cooperatives to focus on disrupting, it would be a national goal and mandate that they do. For that reason I judge the NCUA not to be a cooperative regulator, but just a bank regulator hiding under a cooperative banner.
Owners, no matter what their type, can internally mandate that their approach to the marketplace be disruptive to their competitors, for their consumers, and for the status quo. We both can be disappointed when their efforts are not STUNNING and APPARENT to the outside world, but their efforts can be real. They can be real one consumer at a time. So when he mentions the “big disrupters” he is scaling disruption with a MACRO EXPECTATION again. Why?
That is the point of my blog – vendor mergers like Fiserv and First Data are based on the MACRO EXPECTATIONS that scale is all that matters. And that when scale wipes out the nuance of niche approaches by simple rolling over the needs of those niche players we lose something, and in our case (CU supporters and believers) we might lose everything when we buy from these vendors.
I do believe that CU*Answers is a disruptive force, but not one that will move the world or even vendor analysts. I believe the force mandated by our ownership will move our industry to respect itself via our intent. I believe the force mandated by our ownership will move our industry to see that the cooperative inherent win-win model with consumers is powerful because consumers are the owner. And I believe that that is a disruptive idea for the ages when highlighted, amplified, and sincere in its efforts. So I focus on the micro-disruption of the owner’s intent, the owner’s heart to move things given a chance. Every community’s heart given a chance. I believe that our industry should be concerned when the vendor marketplace consolidations take that chance away.
Thanks to Gregg for commenting and pushing the conversation further.