Work hard to listen to the crowd, but CEOs are still the key ingredient
For over a decade, I’ve invited credit union CEOs from across the country to come to Grand Rapids and attend a CEOs-only event involving learning and discussion—and they’ve been greatly successful. A day and a half of teaching, and a full day of round table discussion (during which I did my best not to dominate the conversation!). We’ve had great conversations on the hot topics of the day, from compliance to service income, learning from peers, building businesses, and putting data into action. We talked a lot about the things we wanted to do or should be doing. Outspoken CEOs and I implored credit unions to listen, and to act. Some have, but many haven’t.
A couple years ago I introduced a different kind of event—boot camps for solution builders and data-minded individuals. These have also been eye opening for me, and we found CU designers across the network who were eager to come in and not just talk about what we should be doing as a CUSO, network, or industry, but to have their hands in the bread making. We’ve built tools and features together that our credit unions are now using today or will be using in the future. In many cases, however, the individuals in attendance, although eager to help build and implement solutions, didn’t always have the power at their own credit unions to make change happen.
So when it came time to start thinking about our annual CEO event, I recognized that credit union CEOs have the responsibility of being the intersecting point between what the CUSO should do and what CUs will do with it. Unless CEOs do their job for both sides of this question, we’ll never effectively match solutions with the efforts of CUs in our network. If credit union owners are the heroes credit unions need to survive long term, CEOs represent the owners of our credit union industry, and we need them to take ownership of its success. Not all CEOs need to be active. And the same CEOs don’t need to be active every time. But we need a healthy community so that there is a material group of CEOs active at the right times.
With that in mind, we made the decision to change what was a popular teaching and roundtable event into a more intensive boot camp experience where CEOs won’t just talk about what they want, but will take part in the strategic development of that future. In our case that means helping design new products and services for the future of our credit unions, but the same should apply across the entire credit union industry. Credit union CEOs need to be the heroes we count on to attain the future we want for our industry. Tell me why I’m wrong.