CUNA Mutual Group’s Gerry Singleton Discusses how Credit Unions Thrive Through Strategy, Prioritization, and Execution


CUNA Mutual logoStrategic planning is both an obligation and an opportunity. Credit unions that plan, execute, and employ innovation are the ones you read about today – growing faster, staying more relevant, and becoming financially stronger.

What makes one credit union’s plan better than another? Often, it is about how they plan as much as what they plan. Achieve more out of planning by:

Staying strategic: Comfort lies in tactics over strategy. As a result, efforts drive to shorter-term results. The key to great strategy is to stay strategic. Drive planning efforts at true long-term initiatives (at least three years out) before focusing on short-term tactics to achieve those goals.

Focusing on fewer strategic initiatives: Don’t take on too much. Credit unions will achieve far more with three to five strong initiatives and resources. Talent, time, and money will achieve a greater return on investment with a few strong, high-impact initiatives, too.

Prioritizing tough: Create a simple scoring system to prioritize activities and to be consistent with measuring importance. This allows credit unions to make tough decisions when resources become tight.

Executing well: Develop a solid plan with clear timelines, roles, and responsibilities. Make managers and leaders accountable for continuous progress to milestones and results through a cadence of review meetings and reporting.

Remember the right actions help lead to your desired result: Effort alone doesn’t guarantee results. Tie strategic activities to measures and focus on the following for true balance and strength in the future.

Create magic for members (and future members):  Member experience is crucial. Not all financial institutions, nor members, are alike. Create strategies to connect segments of members together. Deliver products in non-traditional ways or with special features. Understand what will appeal to your various segments and deliver.

Increase efficiencies to optimize effectiveness: Technology is a key driver for credit unions and provides an opportunity to increase efficiency. Optimize and integrate technology to help both members and employees be more productive. Don’t overlook basic processes – steps in every channel should be quick and easy.

Don’t forget the people: Talent on the front line creates positive member experience. Talent in the back office creates productivity and operational effectiveness. A credit union’s leaders create the culture. Every person in the organization matters, even in a world of digital delivery and interactive teller machines. Build a strong plan for the development of staff, including skill building, knowledge sharing, and leadership training.

Build innovation into the plan: Disruption happens. By building innovation into a plan, credit unions can manage changing technology and delivery systems proactively. For example, harnessing the power of data and analytics will help make better decisions in many areas of your operations, including all of those listed above.

Gerry Singleton is Vice President of Credit Union System Relations for CUNA Mutual Group, the leading provider of insurance and financial services to credit unions and their members. In this role, he is responsible for leveraging CUNA Mutual Group’s relationships with the Credit Union Movement — including national and state trade associations — to help credit unions fulfill their mission with their members and communities. Contact him at [email protected], or connect on LinkedIn. CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Corporate headquarters are located in Madison, Wis.