November 5, 2014

Prepare today for looming TILA/RESPA changes

by Jon Bundy, CUNA Mutual Group's Regulatory Compliance Manager

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule is the largest mortgage lending regulatory compliance change seen by credit unions in recent times. Specifically, the rule will impact credit unions’ relationships with their system, document, and service providers, and, most importantly, their members and credit union staff.

Credit unions must act now to prepare for the combined disclosure rule stemming from the Dodd-Frank Act’s changes to the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

The new disclosures are not merely replacing or combining the existing disclosures. The regulations require loan disclosures to change dynamically to reflect each borrower’s unique loan features, which means the new documents will have new data elements, calculations, and restrictions, and incorporate dynamic elements based on loan type, loan feature, and loan purpose.

Taking everything into consideration, there could be thousands of permutations of the new disclosures because of the dynamic nature of the documents.

To be fully prepared, credit unions must:

  • Start making and documenting business decisions regarding the type of lending programs offered and fees and services charged.
  • Update systems with new data fields and calculations and work with system and document providers to make sure they are on track.
  • Establish procedures to guarantee service providers and settlement agents are walking in step with your credit union to address restrictions and timing limitations.
  • Make sure document providers get your new disclosures to you in time to test and train.
  • Determine who is in charge--know your compliance resources.
  • Know how each department will be impacted and how third-party partners can help.

The compliance deadline is looming--the TILA/RESPA rule becomes effective and must be complied with on Aug. 1, 2015. Don’t get caught unprepared, start having these discussions today.

Jon Bundy is compliance manager of service products for CUNA Mutual Group, responsible for the development of lending and deposit products and assisting credit union leaders with maintaining regulatory compliance through their policies and procedures.

November 4, 2014

CUNA Lending Council Crashers lay down some straight talk...

We caught up with a couple of CUNA Lending Council Crashers for some straight talk about what drives their generation to chose one financial institution over another.

We asked...

  • What are financial institutions missing that would otherwise make them more attractive to you and your millennial peers? 
  • What do you or your peers care most about at your financial institution of choice?
  • How can credit unions adapt to make themselves more appealing to younger generations today and with generations to come?

They told us straight...

The answers we heard confirm what we've always known on one level, but also remind us not to forget about the real and human elements that are, and always have been at the center of the credit union idea. 

Julia Boldina, Operations Manager, NYC Federal CU

Keep up with technologies at other FIs
Embrace Apple Pay
Gen Yers still want to talk F2F with someone

Renee Mullins, Lending Consultant, Call Federal CU

Convenient technology matters
Social media connection matters
Local businesses supporting local economy and giving back matters

Amanda Kissner, Loan Officer, Wakota Federal CU

Technology and easy processes 
Focus on the values of the cooperative movement
Stay local and team up with other like-minded businesses

Credit unions--what I'm hearing is that this is our game to lose. Younger generations may want the best of both worlds when it comes to fast, convenient technology and local, socially responsible practices, but that's good news to a business that can offer both.

Learn more about the CUNA Lending Council Crashers.
Learn more about Filene's The Cooperative Trust and Crasher Program.

November 3, 2014

4 credit unions' excellent lending programs highlighted at CUNA Lending Council luncheon

We celebrate the credit union industry's Consumer and Business Lending excellence through these 4 shining examples.

Winning CUNA Mutual Group's and CUNA Lending Council's Excellence in Lending Awards at the CUNA Lending Council's 20th annual conference are:

Carter Federal Credit Union
Shreveport, La.
$230,000+ million in assets; 30,000+ members
Consumer Lending, Less than $250M in Assets
Why they won: Significantly grew more profitable direct lending program while maintaining a moderate indirect lending channel. Click image to view short video about their program.

Clearview Federal Credit Union
Moon Township, Penn.
$900 million in assets; 86,000 members
Consumer Lending, More than $250M in Assets
Why they won: Revamped home equity products that are flexible and priced more competitively. Click image to view short video about their program.

Numerica Credit Union
Spokane Valley, Wash.
$1.3 billion+ in assets; 103,000+ members
Business Lending
Why they won: Hired experienced commercial loan officers and credit personnel; purchased software to set for more home-grown business lending. Click image to view short video about their program.

Highmark FCU 
Rapid City, S.D.
$95 million+ in assets; 9,500+ members
Business Lending
Why they won: Investing in employees and technology, as well as adding a personal touch to its focus on small businesses and ag producers. Click image to view short video about their program.

Full News Release here

September 23, 2014

Loan Growth for CUs Best Since 2006

We've been on quite the upward trend with the monthly "Credit Union Trends Report" from our chief economist, Steve Rick. In fact, according to recent numbers, the credit union industry has seen a 10.2% increase in loan balances in the past year alone - that's the highest levels since February of 2006.

Rick points out a few other things in this month's report:

1. Vehicle lending was "red hot" this summer. So hot that "overall credit union loan growth is more affected by used auto loan growth than new auto loan growth."

2. Pressure point, secured lending. First mortgages were down 33% in the 2nd quarter this year compared to the same quarter in 2013. Rick says, "this has lowered non-interest income and put downward pressure on credit unions' bottom line." 

3. Membership boom continues! CU membership is up 2.1 million year-to-date. According to Rick, that's a 17% faster pace compared to the similar period in 2013. Rick says "membership growth is highly correlated to asset size." 

Want to hear more from Steve Rick? Check out our short CU Trends video overview

September 18, 2014

#DiscoveryCon - what to expect?

The Discovery Conference - it's this mix of the benefits of going to a huge credit union industry conference with piles of content, networking, live chats - all online and all without the need to iron anything. Heck, you don't even have to wear shoes!

Our jobs allow us get a sneak peak at the content and sit in on the presentation recordings. And we wanted to share a few things that we've already learned even before the show starts on Oct. 15!

Disruptive Economy - disruption has been happening in many other industries. Our SVP of Strategy & Business Development, John Lass shows us what has happened to industries/companies ready or not for the disruptive waves.

Click photo for "Disruptive" teaser video 

Social Media & Compliance - Co-founder of Chatter Yak!, Bryce Roth, pinpoints the social media responsibilities of credit unions. Hint: disclaimers on Facebook

Roth w/ importance of FFIEC rules

Mobile Trends & Auto Purchasing - "The majority of auto buyers now research their options online and on smartphones." says Steve Hoke, director of loan growth for CUNA Mutual Group. He hits the mobile trends and data points CUs should know.

Hoke goes mobile

There are 10 other presentation sessions that we don't have room to cover on this blog. So, check out the details of Discovery Online and over on Facebook - see you Oct. 15!

September 5, 2014

The Mobile Mindset

How important is offering mobile access to customers to the financial industry today? New smartphone lending data from CUNA Mutual Group answers that question:
  • 63% of adult smartphone owners use phones to go online.
  • 34% of those do online searches on their phones rather than a computer.
More to the point, mobile website optimization for smartphones/tablets are key business practices to ensure financial institutions don't miss any demographic segment (boomers, millennials, everyone).  For instance, the "Consumers Want Better Mobile Banking" study discovered this stat:
  • 1 in 6 millennials say poor mobile experience will cause them to find a new financial provider.
Here's the thing: mobile-optimized sites allow smartphone/tablet users to show and compare products easily, whenever and wherever they want. Major purchases, such as buying a new car, are happening on mobile devices. I give you this stat from "Mobile Device Use at the Dealership:"
  • 63% of auto shoppers researched & shopped on their mobile device while at the dealership.
Even inside our own building, we are watching dramatic increases in mobile lending trends. Just look at the graphic below!

Watching mobile trends is part of my job, and I've been talking to credit unions across the country saying if they don't innovate through mobile offerings, they're likely to lose out with existing and potential new members who may go elsewhere. I suggest you visit your credit union's website on your phone and think about how good or iffy the experience is for you - because that's what your members are looking at these days. 

Guest blog post by: Steve Hoke - he's the director, loan growth products at CUNA Mutual Group. Want to know about mobile trends? Ask this guy. 

August 20, 2014

CUNA Mutual Group Recognized as CIO 100 Award Winner for the ZONE

International Data Group's CIO magazine named CUNA Mutual Group among its 2014 CIO 100 award recipients. The 27th annual awards program was held Tuesday evening, Aug. 19, and recognizes organizations worldwide that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology.

CUNA Mutual Group's CIO, Rick Roy, was honored with accepting the award.
The Award Winning Project:
  • The ZONE:
    • A tablet application that helps credit union members plan for retirement security. 
    • Launched in August 2013, the ZONE presents CUNA Mutual Group’s registered index annuity, MEMBERS® Zone Annuity, in a unique, high-performance web application for the iPad. 
    • The ZONE helps advisors and credit union members work together to create a zone of risk and reward aligned with the member’s investment goals.
"For 27 years now, the CIO 100 awards have honored the innovative use of technology to deliver genuine business value," said Maryfran Johnson, Editor in Chief of CIO magazine & Events. "Our 2014 winners are an outstanding example of the transformative power of IT to drive everything from revenue growth to competitive advantage."

August 6, 2014

Crash the CU Water Cooler

The big credit union industry events, like GAC and ACUC have been crashed for the past few years by members of The Cooperative Trust. CUNA Mutual Group has been thrilled to be part of this new wave and new generation of industry leaders to help bring new life to the credit union and cooperative movement.

2014 Crash the GAC
2012 ACUC Crash - San Diego

Point is, it's time to change things up a bit.

We've teamed up with the Crashers again to spread this program to other industry events around the country and bring in even more opportunities for Crashers to attend. Our first stop - the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Austin, TX coming up in September!    

What do you need to know? Application deadline is Friday, August 8! All the other info, check the video below.

Stay tuned for other event announcements as the year moves on - until then Crashers, we'll see you in Austin! 

July 22, 2014

100 Million Members - Now What?

Each month we look at the latest Credit Union Trends Report for the information our credit union followers need/want to know. Typically, it's loan trends (auto, home, refinancing) and membership growth.

This month in our interview with our new chief economist, Steve Rick, we had a chance to talk about hitting the 100 million member milestone. While we expect to hit the mark sometime this summer, Rick pointed out that "credit union membership is growing 25-percent faster than this time last year." Of course, we had to ask why? He attributes the rapid growth to a few things:

  • General increase in credit demand in the over all economy.
  • Labor market is improving.
  • People are ready to make bigger purchases (cars, appliances...).  
And with these new members comes important marketing opportunities through, not only direct marketing, but membership-relation-focused-marketing, social media, mobile marketing and on and on and on.  

The question is, we have 100 million members (and counting) waiting to be served, now what are we going to do to with them? 


July 3, 2014

The Cost of a Data Breach

According to a Ponemon Institute report, the average total cost of a data breach is $3.5 million. And that breaks down to $145 for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and/or confidential information!

There was a lot of chatter at ACUC about Jay Isaacson's presentation about "Cyber and Data Security Losses." He talked about the "significant dollar losses and reputational damage done to companies.

According to the 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, there were 1,367 data breaches in 2013 - 465 of those were in the financial industry. Isaacson said, "Network security is only as strong at the weakest link."

He asks credit unions to try and answer these questions when it comes to responding to a cyber-attack:
  • Does your credit union have an Incident/Breach Response Plan?
  • Does your credit union regularly review the controls and security of 3rd parties housing your data?
  • Does your credit union have mechanisms in place to detect and react to potential Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks?"
The question is, what's the first thing you'd do if you found out there had been a data breach at your credit union?

July 2, 2014

Credit Unions Facing a "Perfect Storm"

Unlike banks, credit union executives are limited on how much they can contribute and receive from retirement plans.

CUNA Mutual Group's Bruce Bauer (senior executive benefits specialist) spoke about this controversial subject at ACUC saying credit unions are facing a "perfect storm" when it comes to recruiting, retaining and compensating executive talent. "Jobs are opening up, executive talent is being aggressively wooed away from credit unions." 

Think of these numbers:

  • Nearly 50% of U.S. employers are challenged to fill mission-critical positions.
  • 63% of organizations say other companies are trying to recruit their leadership.

What can be done to help keep your excellent executive at your credit union? Bauer has a four-word answer: Supplemental Executive Retirement Program (SERP). "Regulatory provisions allow credit unions to fund SERPs through formerly impermissible assets." 

When developing executive compensation plans, Bauer recommends three things for credit unions:
  1. Align compensation philosophy with their mission, organizational and financial goals.
  2. Encourage leadership continuity by defining a scope that addresses the CEO and key executives.
  3. Use peer compensation data to establish desired competitiveness levels.
What are your credit unions plans for keeping your executives?

Learn more about SERP here

July 1, 2014

Time to get real: Mobile platforms aren't 'nice to have'

Have you recently applied for a loan from your credit union through the same channels your members do? How was the experience?

"If a credit union wants to be a full-service provider in their member's delivery channel of choice, you need to have a mobile first mindset across the entire business – or your CU will lose out in the end,”  CUNA Mutual Group's Robert Israelite emphasizes during his Discovery session Tuesday at America's Credit Union Conference.

Perhaps hard to hear, Israelite brings to light the reality that many veteran CEOs and credit union boards are far removed from the behaviors and needs of their members. In fact, according to Google's "Think Insights" study, if your website is not mobile-optimized: 

The old 'nice to have' is the new 'need to have.' Israelite recommends credit unions looking to build out their mobile capabilities take a deep breath and:

  • Start with your mission, vision and values --  determine if your goals and strategy relate to mobile and if so, build it into your business strategy at the very top.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a real member -- make it a priority for all your staff to experience and understand every online member-facing channel. 
  • Go through every link on your site -- if you don’t control it talk to business partners who do to get it optimized for mobile. 
Essentially, the key here is to understand what your members are experiencing. And, Israelite adds, "you'd better get moving because you're already late to the party. Many credit unions have already lost more members than they’ll ever know about. Those members have moved on and they’ll never come back."

Like what he has to say?
Listen to a radio podcast with Israelite for more in-depth info.

June 24, 2014

#ACUC - Content for Your Credit Union

This weekend, we will be heading out to Americas Credit Union Conference (ACUC) in San Francisco and we wanted to give you a look at some content we will be sharing that could be valuable for your credit union.

Monday, June 30:
How do small credit unions increase income? This topic will be discussed at the "Small Credit Union Roundtable" and we will share what answers they discuss.

Tuesday, July 1:
Integrating mobile into your loan growth strategy - one of the "hotter" topics of the year. We'll share the latest mobile trends and how credit unions execs and marketers can wrap their heads around this ever-evolving mobile world.

Wednesday, July 2:
The challenges of credit union executive churn - there's a "perfect storm" brewing with the restrictions CUs have in retaining executives. We'll talk about possible solutions.

Latest CFPB changes impacting lending - always a discussion that changes almost weekly. Our compliance guy Jon Bundy will join us for what CUs should watch out for.

Thursday, July 3:
Data, cyber and security risks - nothing gets the blood pumping more than data breach issues. We'll discuss what credit unions can do to prepare for the worst.

Obviously we'll have more content coming from ACUC in a steady stream to your social platforms. Want to chime in, have questions, or want to connect? Ping us on all of our platforms or right here while we're at ACUC from June 29-July 3.

June 12, 2014

Payment Disruption - It's Getting Interesting

 The following is an excerpt originally published in Credit Union Magazine

Investment in retail financial services innovation has exploded since the financial crisis. The evidence is compelling:
  • Global investment in financial technology has tripled from $930 million in 2008 to nearly $3 billion in 2013, according to Accenture;
  • Of the 1,096 “payments” startups listed in early May on AngelList [], 216 joined this online investment platform for start-up companies in 2014.
  • Large players outside financial services have joined venture capital firms in making significant investments in the field. Google, for instance, recently invested in three lending startups.
These investments could potentially disrupt the traditional business models banks and credit unions have relied on for years.

Andrew Sorkin recently wrote in The New York Times’ DealBook column, “If the last three decades revolutionized the information and telecommunications industries, the next three may upend the basic tenets of finance: currencies, credit and banks, as well as payment and transmission systems.”
Let’s take a closer look at some of these disruptive innovators:

  • PayPal has a redesigned mobile app and introduced Beacon, a Bluetooth Low Energy device that connects to a customer’s smartphone when they enter a store to enable hands-free payment at the point of sale.PayPal offers, “Bill Me Later,” which allows customers to defer payments for items purchased via PayPal.
  • Lending Club, the largest U.S. peer-to-peer lender, facilitated nearly $800 million in personal, unsecured loans in first quarter 2014. Last year, Google led a $125 million investment round in Lending Club.
  • T-Mobile recently partnered with The Bancorp to offer a prepaid debit card and mobile app, which it markets as a checking account alternative.

The future promises even more potential for disruption as the true impact of new and yet-to-be conceived innovation is felt. For example, Bitcoin’s true impact may have nothing to do with virtual currencies—Bitcoin’s lasting innovation may be its platform, which enables peer-to-peer transactions without relying on a trusted third party or clearinghouse.

A myriad of industries have been disrupted in recent years by new technologies and business models (e.g., e-commerce, digital music, digital photography, e-books, etc.). Retail financial services may be nearing its own moment of disruption.

Original article written by John Lass, senior vice president, strategy & business development, and Steve Heusuk, senior manager, strategy & business development, for CUNA Mutual Group.

June 2, 2014

3 Mobile Challenges Credit Unions Should Think About

Steve Hoke, CUNA Mutual Group's leader of the AskAuto app wants credit unions to think about three challenges when it comes to implementing a mobile strategy:

Time - it's the biggest challenge for credit unions wanting to start or increase their mobile presence. Hoke says to take the time to see what "mobile channels your members are using. It'll help you determine what products and services to roll out and when."

Risk - The risk here, according to Hoke, is not going all-in with a mobile marketing presence. He says, "The risk is members will move or switch to a different financial institution if you don't have the right tools." Be mobile in everything you do.

Prioritize - The final challenge is prioritizing what's most mobile-important to your members. Hoke says think of three things:

1. Mobile Banking Channel Platform: get this mobile foundation set before you do anything else.
2. Lending Channel: this is a great revenue driver for your mobile marketing.
3. Engagement of Members: what is the mobile angle of what you do? Members are already there - engage with them.

For more information, check out this full interview with Hoke in CUNA Mutual Group's Digital Lab.

May 14, 2014

Record Membership Growth...Sustainable?

Our chief economist, David Colby has seen it all over the past three decades - ups, downs, record numbers, crashing economy, and WKRP in Cincinnati (he's a big fan). This month's Credit Union Trends Report brings with it some interesting and record-breaking numbers and facts:

  • Annual loan growth has improved for 30 consecutive months and at 8.1% it is at its highest level since October 2006.
  • Vehicle Loan growth is the strongest it's been since March of 2004.
  • 1 million new credit union members in Q1 of 2014
Colby sat down with us in the Digital Lab to discuss these (and other) huge points for the industry. But the question we had to ask was, "Is this membership growth sustainable?" His short answer, "Absolutely not!" Check the full interview below or click here

April 30, 2014

Leadership is Not a Title

One of the biggest challenges future chief information officers will face is juggling the need for innovation while remaining efficient.

With the growing challenges in today’s environment, from regulation and economic volatility to globalization and changing consumer behaviors, IT leaders must learn to balance these forces on a regular basis. CIOs are driving both innovation and efficiency that can lead to huge amounts of energy spent and little motion forward. Although CIOs have always faced these competing imperatives, current market trends have increased the tension between the two.

To help navigate through this new market environment, it’s important to generate high levels of engagement among those you work with and connecting with peers beyond the project and interact at a strategic level.

Bottom line, leadership is not a title, or a job, or being a witness. It’s about going beyond the typical leadership characteristics that are essential to helping modern IT leaders succeed.

For example, it is important to be relevant in your industry by building and maintaining one’s credibility and thought leadership. Read what your business counterparts are reading in the today’s business and technology publications, blogs, and websites. They want to know that you are ‘in the know’ and can talk intelligently about technology trends that impact their business. You have to have a point of view. 

Guest Blog by Rick Roy, CUNA Mutual Group's SVP, Chief Information Officer

April 28, 2014

High Ethical Standards - More Than Just the Right Thing to Do

"There is a direct and positive correlation between business performance and companies with high integrity."

Steve Koslow @ HR Council

This week at the CUNA Human Resources and Training and Development Council Conference, there's a lot of chatter about "ethics." Our very own Steve Koslow, SVP, chief ethics and compliance officer, brought up some interesting stats about businesses with a strong ethics program and how it can help credit unions.

The following numbers Koslow shared are from a survey by corporate and regulatory consultant LRN and PR firm Edelman
  • 94% of employees surveyed said it's critical or important that they work for an ethical company.
  • 36% of employees surveyed left a job because they disagreed with the company's ethical standards.
  • 85% of customers will go out of their way to buy from a company they trust. 

We've seen time and time again, maintaining the reputation of trust is critical to maintain and grow your membership base. What ethical programs are in place at your credit union?

April 11, 2014

A Breakthrough Ruling For Credit Unions

CUNA Mutual joins with credit unions in celebrating IRS's acceptance of more than 15 years of work by CUNA Mutual Group, CUNA, AACULE and NASCUS in discussions and negotiations with IRS, together with two federal court decisions recognizing State chartered credit unions' legitimate role in providing insurance and broad financial services to their members. 

According to CUNA’s April 9 news release, “the Internal Revenue Service recently issued a memorandum that defines nearly all credit union products at stake in the litigation as "substantially related income"--not subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT).” 

Revenue from the following income-producing activities are deemed "substantially related income" and therefore not subject to UBIT: 
  • Sale of checks/fees from a check-printing company;
  • Debit card program's interchange fees;
  • Credit card program's interchange fees;
  • ATM fees from member transactions;
  • Interest from credit card loans;
  • Sale of collateral protection insurance;
  • Credit life and credit disability insurance (not subject to UBIT if sold to members); and
  • Guaranteed asset protection (GAP) auto insurance (not subject to UBIT if sold to members).
In recognizing these legitimate activities, the IRS also recognizes State chartered credit unions' exemption from federal taxes on the income from these activities.

Importantly, the credit unions' dual chartering system is enhanced by this decision that provides a more equitable treatment of the tax exemption of Federal and State chartered credit unions. 

This is a welcome development for credit unions and couldn't have been achieved without the countless hours of hard work from so many people, including CUNA Mutual's Faye Patzner.

Credit union detractors should take heed: Congress, the federal courts and IRS are unified in their decisions that credit unions' purpose is to meet the contemporary financial services needs of their members, and not merely basic loans and savings accounts.

Guest Blogger: Larry Blanchard, Chair--UBIT Steering Committee
CUNA Mutual Corporate and Legislative Affairs

Larry Blanchard has been instrumental in shaping today’s credit union landscape. In addition to working for CUNA Mutual Group for more than 15 years, he has worked for every major credit union organization in the U.S. Without Larry's efforts in helping to make H.R. 1151 law, there might not be a credit union movement today. He was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2010.

April 8, 2014

The Easy Retirement Planning Approach

National Retirement Planning Week is set for April 7 to April 11, 2014.  Does this make you think about your retirement savings?  How’s it going for you?  If you’re like most working Americans, you spent more time pondering the menu at your last restaurant than planning for a secure retirement.  The secret to getting ahead is getting started.  So let’s go…

Most people avoid thinking about retirement savings because it seems too complicated.  “What about the stock market?  Where are interest rates going?  Is it a good time for bonds?  When will the economy  get better?”  All these questions seem dizzying and are impossible to answer.  So, we suggest you simplify things and focus on the two things can control. 

First, how much should you save?  This differs for everybody but here’s some general direction.  If you’re in a company sponsored 401(k), always invest enough to capture the entire company match.  That’s a starting point.  Even better, make sure your total savings adds up to 10% of your gross pay.  The best approach is to use a retirement calculator and find out how much you should be saving to reach your goals…then save that much.

Second, determine the appropriate asset allocation of your investments (mix of stocks, bonds and fixed).  A good target date fund will do this for you.  They are designed to have an appropriate mix that gets more conservative as you approach retirement.  If you do it yourself, remember that the younger you are the higher % of stocks you should own.  For example, a thirty year old may have 75% to 90% in stocks whereas a fifty-five year old should have 35% to 60% in stocks.  But pick a reasonable mix and stick with it and avoid trying to time to market.

April 4, 2014

Same old, same old...except when it's not

April 6, 2014 marks the 42nd running of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in Washington, D.C. Credit unions have been the title sponsor, raising money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals for the past 13 years. And this will be my 6th year organizing the CUNA Mutual team and running as team captain.

For those of us who come here often, it pretty much looks the same each year. A picture of the race expo or the race course from this year will look exactly like the expo and course from last year. Not very exciting, right? It's easy to see the same stuff every year and think, "What's new? What's different? Why am I about to run 10 miles in this race, again!?"

Cherry Blossom Run Expo 2014

Cherry Blossom Run Expo 2013

But as I walked into the expo this year, and I saw the familiar set-up and the familiar faces, I realized something I hadn't quite been able to articulate before. These people--runners, volunteers, organizers, supporters--just like me, are here again, doing it all over again because they get what this event is really for--it's not for the runners, the spectators, the sponsors or the credit unions....

It's about the fact that every year this race is run, there's between 500,000 and 1 million MORE dollars raised for NEW children and families that unfortunately need the care that Children's Miracle Network Hospitals can give, but fortunately because of this event, there's money available to allow them to get what they need to survive. 

So for those new families, even those who've had long medical struggles and are receiving new and better treatment each year--for them, none of this is same old, same old. To them, to these children and their families, the fact that we gather in D.C. every year and keep running, means everything. 

March 28, 2014

What It Takes

In the past few days, we were recognized as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. If you take a look at the full list of companies who received this award, you'll find brands like Gap, Google, and Kellogg - - and us! 

We spoke with our chief ethics and compliance officer, Steve Koslow, about the award (video above) and actually we found out that this award is something that's a lot harder to get than we thought. 

The thing is this: we get to work for a company that actually kicks some serious ethical-ness (word?) - and we're proud of that!

March 21, 2014

#DigitalLab - what we've been up to

For the past several months, we've been working on what we now refer to as the #DigitalLab inside the halls of CUNA Mutual Group. It's a first-of-its-kind space in the industry dedicated to the study and execution of social media.

I'll stop writing and let you see what we're talking about. We are excited and appreciative of what we've been given to take social and digital conversations much farther than ever before. To our supporters, thank you. To our "not sure-ers," just watch. For a full view of our plan, just click the photo.

March 11, 2014

Social Media Engagement

So many people and organizations continue to chase the magic bullet of social media - do little and get huge rewards. What it really comes down to is a lot of work and genuine engagement with your audiences to grow your business.

Social Media Today has a lengthy write up about engagement we thought we'd share. You'll find the "motivators that drive people to engage." 

We have several definitions of engagement here including: be real and share what we knowSocial media engagement - what's your definition?

March 6, 2014

Biggest Issue Facing Credit Unions?

We are going through all of the interviews we shot at GAC and we came across this clip with CUNA's VP of Communication, Pat Keefe. We asked the question, "What's the biggest issue facing credit unions in 2014?" After 2 seconds of thinking about it, he responded with this...

With all of the issues and campaigns being pushed around in the industry, such as #DontTaxMyCU #UniteForGood #DontTaxTuesday, we'd like to know what are the "big" and "real" issues your credit unions are facing?

March 3, 2014

GAC Snap Observations

Observations of GAC: record-breaking attendance (more than 4,000); largest group of Crashers ever; tax issue left out of the first draft of the bill; and snow.

Social media observations of GAC:  Twitter is still king #CUNAGAC; collaborative social is in; Instagram gaining popularity; selfies were huge;  longer-form blogs with videos a great combination.
GAC remains the mother of all CU gatherings of the year...and rightly so.

February 26, 2014

GAC - Final Wrap-Up

It's time to pack it up from Washington, D.C. for this year's GAC. We've been able to track down a number of industry leaders and journalists to talk about the issues as it matters to our credit union followers.

Today, it's Hike the Hill and then leaving here and going back to our towns and CUs and jobs to see what we can do to improve the credit union industry in our communities. We appreciate those who've connected with us and look forward to what can be accomplished, using the things we learned at GAC, this year. 

For our final wrap-up of GAC....look no farther. Thanks to all of you who helped us develop the content for our followers. Time for us to head home.

GAC - Hike the Hill

While the snow continued to come down this morning (it's finally stopped now), the crowds continued to gather for today's Hike the Hill - of course all of the social media channels have been pretty loud with the chatter.

Here's one group of pics....

February 25, 2014

GAC Wrap-Up Day 3!

We've reached the end of day 3 at GAC in Washington D.C. and a lot of the conversation today revolved around technology and credit unions becoming increasingly progressive in their outreach to consumers.

Here's a look at what we saw and heard at GAC! Oh, and it snowed.... #PolarVortex

GAC - 3 Priorities for WOCCU in 2014

Today we caught up with WOCCU's pres/CEO Brian Branch to discuss the three main priorities/concerns he's working on this year for credit unions around the world. Most technology!

GAC - Snow Day!?

Yep. That's all I can say.....snowing at GAC. 

GAC - What Credit Unions Can Learn from Check Cashers?

Three things: they are cheaper, more transparent and have better service than mainstream financial services. Here's an interview with Lisa Servon, professor of management and urban policy at the New School in New York.

Also, check out Servon's latest Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal - her thoughts on the USPS as a payday lender.

February 24, 2014

GAC Wrap-Up Day 2

Washington D.C.'s population jumped up today with the beginning of CUNA's GAC - more than 4,000 credit union people are here packing the convention center.

We were treated to a day of speeches from CUNA's leader, Bill Cheney and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair - both points related to the industry's need for change and the speed in which change is happening.

Here's our quick video wrap-up of the day.

GAC Expo Inspiration

Today at GAC after the keynote session, we headed to the expo center to see what caught our attention.

Tony Blair spoke of the changing global world around us and the need to find creative solutions and adjust our way of thinking to be able to continue to be successful in the future. Several organizations at the expo today are working hard to enhance the future of the credit union and cooperative movements and the health and wellness of our future generations. 

Sarah Turner with  Credit Union Miracle Day, and her team of volunteers from west coast to east showed us the power of credit unions collaborating over the past 12 years as title sponsors of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run-- $10 million donated to local Children's Miracle Network hospitals!

Next door at the NCBA CLUSA booth, I was inspired again by their innovative work in collaboration across the cooperative sectors. Is your credit union a co-op. Yes, it is!

Bill Cheney & Tony Blair - On Tour at GAC

CUNA's leader, Bill Cheney and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair presenting to more than 4,000 GACers discussing: globalization, risked-based capital, grassroots movements, data breaches and the impacts on the credit union industry worldwide.

February 23, 2014

GAC Wrap-Up Day 1

We have been watching the final preparation work happening at GAC. The day was spent mostly meeting people we haven't seen in awhile and getting all of the registration stuff out of the way before the real show begins on Monday.

For our followers, the first GAC wrap-up videos is below. Continue watching as we bring you the visuals, interviews and information coming from the conference for you to learn and enjoy!

February 21, 2014


I didn't title this post 'hello' because I couldn't think of anything better. In fact, the word hello is the purpose of this entire post. I wanted to make a point to pause and say hello before we go any further.

You may have noticed this blog is a new social/digital channel for CUNA Mutual Group. We needed a venue to post more in-depth analysis and content beyond what 140 characters or a traditional social media post would allow. Next week at GAC and beyond, we will feature leaders and experts, industry knowledge and expertise and our thoughts in general on a variety of topics relevant to the industry here.

But first, hello!

In an increasingly efficient digital world, it's easy to forget we're still just humans talking to other humans. I read an article today about how the word 'hello' is the most valuable word in the ecology of human interaction. It was a good reminder about the human-centered element of connection that is so important to both of us here on this social media team.

I am a fan of digital media. I see it as a convenience and an extension of real-life face to face connections, rather than a replacement or estrangement of human connection. But like any connection, you still have to make an effort to humanize it. Sometimes all it takes is a real and heartfelt 'hello!'

In fact, when I first met Michael Ogden here at CUNA Mutual, I was struck by his habit of always pausing to say 'hello, how are you?' before asking what he needed of his coworkers. We all find ourselves 'too busy' in the day-to-day of our work, and honestly, sadly, I'd never seen anyone do that in my professional career thus far. When I asked him why he does it, he passed it off as manners and a product of how and where he grew up...but I suspect there's more to it. Like me, like all of us humans, we seek real and genuine connections regardless of whether we're on a beach in Maui or the board room on Monday. If we can get closer with 'hello,' it is worth billions.

"In a world of frenetic behavior and evident signs of pain and struggle, “Hello” paves the way towards connection. Yes, it can be a cursory pleasantry, but it can also be an entryway into something much more."

So, in conclusion, hello, welcome to our blog, we hope to see you again soon!

February 20, 2014

"Awesome Year for Credit Unions!"

2013 continued the post-Bank Transfer Day surge of popularity for credit unions. Lots of record-breaking numbers and even more positive momentum for 2014. In our interview with CUNA Mutual Group's chief economist David Colby, he goes through some of the final results of 2013.

For a more detailed look at the numbers, check the full report.