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April 08, 2014

From Now On, I'm Paying for Everything with Snow Tires.

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by Ron Daly

I was browsing through creditunions.com when I came across this story about a young man (or woman?) who is using GameStop as his bank. He buys video games in advance of their release with his paycheck, sells back the hold credit when he needs cash, and keeps the cycle going. GameStop holds his money, gives a little back, and affords him all the benefits of membership, including "exclusive content". 

I'm not a video gamer, so all the "pre-order" and "exclusive content" talk doesn't mean much to me. But I get what he's going for, and I love it! Gee, why didn't I consider that before now? I'm getting in on the action. I want to buy a few things on order and just hang on to them until I need their cash equivalent. Let's see, what's something I wouldn't mind having around the house or garage?

I got it! Snow tires!

It's the perfect scheme. I'm going to buy a few dozen sets of snow tires, pile them up in the garage, and return them to the manufacturer in mint condition when I'm short on cash! Who doesn't want a set of snow tires? They're so useful...when it's snowing, that is. And when it's not snowing, just put plants and stuff in them, I guess.

See? Why would anyone want to do business with a dumb old credit union or bank when we could just buy expensive things to establish an "account" with a store and then return them when we need...you know, real money.

Holy smokes...I think I just figured out how to make this thing even more simple. I'm just going to pay for things in snow tires! Naturally, everyone will accept snow tires. They'll have to invent new ATMs that dispense snow tires! The value depreciates a bit in the summer, but come the first blizzard this winter I'll be a rich man!

...Oh, wait, never mind. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

We invented money because bartering is too hard. We invented deposit accounts so that your flimsy money had a place to stay safe, outside your home and not on your person. We invented deposit insurance to hedge our bets and to ensure that people's money would be safe. We invented ATMs so you could get the money quickly and debit so you didn't have to use cash and chip-and-PIN so you didn't have to worry about swiping away your identity. We keep improving this system by adding both security and convenience. Sure, you can quibble about inflation and bitcoin and Tetris and Mario, but we've got a good thing going here. Why would anyone opt-out?

The article I mentioned above outlines a few reasons why this misguided gamer might take a different approach to his finances.

This consumer expects branches to stay open later, he wants shorter lines, and he wants low to nonexistant fees. Many credit unions meet these demands, it's just a matter of informing the public. Financial education and community outreach are pillars of the credit union way, this poster is a prime example of a disenfranchised member who needs to be shown the light. With alternatives abound, awareness of the credit union and its connection to community is all the more important.

How strange that, in a world where you can search for anything with a few taps on a smart phone, this guy still couldn't find a credit union or bank that suited all his needs. Is it a failure of branding, of advertising, or of the system at large? Is distrust in and distaste with banks so prevalent that people will trust their hard-earned money to their favorite brands for safekeeping?

Until this guy gets a "no more sell-backs" notice, I'm guessing he'll keep at it. But good luck paying for an emergency car repair or an expensive bill with a bunch of X-Box games.

And I don't think I'm going to switch all my money over snow tires after all. I like my money like I like my history museums: government funded, easily accessible and full of pictures of bygone presidents.

March 31, 2014

It's World Backup Day. Not That YOU Care.

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by Ron Daly

Ah, that wonderful spring air. The trees are in bud, the flowers are in bloom, the weather...well, the weather hasn't made up its mind just yet. All the calendars say it's the most wondrous day of the year...yeah, you guessed it, it's World Backup Day!

But let me guess...you don't care. 

I know your take on it. "World Backup Day? Is that the day we celebrate all the great backup singers in history?" No, not at all. World Backup Day is the day we all back up our computers. Many of us only do that once a year, regrettably, but better once a year than not at all.

"Ugh, backups," you groan. "My IT department is always bugging me to do them. Who has the time?"

Yeah! I agree completely! Who has the time?! Who has the roughly 30 to 60 minutes every two weeks to plug in an external hard drive, press "back up now" and let the computer back itself up? It's madness!

If your sarcasm meter isn't in the red right now, you better get it checked. Backing up your computer, your smartphone, your tablet - whatever electronic doo-dad you might lug around with you on a daily basis - has never been easier. You can back up to a hard drive. You might even be able to back up to a thumb drive, provided it's big enough. Heck, back your important stuff up to the cloud, or to your private online storage space. It's not that difficult. You don't need a computer science degree to know how, you just need to know your computer, know where you want the files to be stored, and know how to protect them once you store them.

"ARGH, I have to know THREE THINGS?! Listen, Mr. Daly..."

Mister Daly is my father. Please, call  me Ron.

"...okay. Listen, Ron, I'm very busy and I'm not very computer savvy. Plus, I keep my computer clean and free of viruses and it's practically new. Do I really need a backup routine?"

Yes. You really need a backup routine. Just like you really need insurance. You don't get insurance because you expect to get sick or injuredYou get insurance because sometimes, you get sick or injured out of the clear blue sky. Accidents and misfortune don't always have your name written all over them; sometimes, they're marked "to whom it may concern". Those are the days you want the benefit of a safety net. 

The same is true of computers. Sometimes, you get a virus that disguised itself as the latest version of your favorite Facebook game. Sometimes, your house gets struck by lightning. Sometimes, your clumsy nephew drops an entire glass of water into your CPU. These sound like crazy one-off events, but they happen to well-meaning people every day. In a world where we keep all our precious memories, our favorite songs, and our important documents neatly on the "C:" drive, why wouldn't you take the few extra minutes every month, plug in, back up, and then store that data somewhere safe?

On any given day, the person who is responsible for data loss is you. You can prevent it, and when you can't, you can prepare for a new computer that has all your important files on it. All it takes is a regular backup routine.

"You know what, Ron? You've convinced me. I'm going to go to the World Backup Day website, take the pledge and get my life on track."

Glad I could help.

"Speaking of backup singers, though...any chance you'll be in my cover band? We mostly sing Motley Crue covers..."

No way, no how.

March 14, 2014

The Devil, the Details and You.

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by Ron Daly

I was cruising through LinkedIn and saw this post from CU Grow, posted with the intriguing snippet: 

"Let’s be honest, a CEO most likely does not care about the details of the creative as they are more interested in the outcome and value the results of the creative provide."

As a CEO myself, I had to chew that over. Yes, I care about the creative details - I'd like to know they're on-brand and well-done and useful. No, I don't care about every detail - I have to differ creative choices to the creatives I pay to...well, create.

The article is all about KPI's - Key Performance Indicators. What makes a campaign successful? Is it the number of people that click? Is it view/play counts? Is it downloads? 

Chances are, none of these metrics tell you much on their own. Click-throughs matter, but only in the interest of finding how many people bought something on the other end. Views and play counts are nice, but how many of those views can you trace back to a loan offered or a problem solved?  How many downloads of your white paper got you another conversation?  "The Devil's in the Details," they say, and while I don't think you have to be the devil to see how your virtual branch is managing visitors, I think it is important to keep the big picture in focus.

I like the article I read. I like knowing that our online initiatives reduce acquisition costs, boost profitability, and improve operational efficiencies. And I really love seeing all of that happen, start to finish, through the analytics. That's why I like to look at the following pieces of information for any campaign done online: 

1. Campaign Sources - This is an obvious one. I like both a macro- and micro-view of the campaigns because I want to know more about what's working. Are banner ads outperforming email for a certain campaign? What target audience responds best to webinars? In a given email campaign, how far did clickthrough-visitors go in pursuit of information? Which leads me to info-point two:

2. Time Spent and Visit Depth - Of the people that came in from any given campaign source, how long did they stick around and how much reading did they do? Did they download anything? Did they sign up for a webinar? 

3. Where's This Going? - I want to be able to compare the products we're promoting against the page visits for those products. As much as possible, I want to know what brought users to those pages and how much each clickthrough cost.

4. Drawing the Line - For each lead we get, I'd like to be able to draw a line from one point to the next in the road to their admission as a lead. Is this a client? Is this a prospect? Is this a potential partner? What brought them in, what did it cost us, and what's our next step in bringing them on board?

Hopefully these are good guidelines for you as well. All of this information is pretty easy to ascertain if your analytics are correctly set up and you have a good grasp on your costs. As you dig in on your reports and results, ask yourself an even bigger question: "what might change?" As Brent Dixon discussed in his most recent CU Water Cooler post, there are many things to consider when you're looking at one end result. In most cases, you can't point to a single root cause of any effect. Consider everything and try to think of your marketing campaigns (and your department) as a system. How does one piece affect another? Can something be changed to improve overall performance?

The devil's in the details but finding out how each arm of your marketing plan is working with the others is heavenly.

February 19, 2014

What I've Learned About Shoveling

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by Ron Daly

If you've ignored every media outlet for the past week, you might not know that we've had a lot of snow in the DC Metro area. With a foot or more of snow comes the fun of sledding and snowmen...and the un-fun of shoveling.

The main roads get plowed and the sub-streets get plowed. My driveway, on the other hand, is entirely up to me. A cubic foot of snow weighs (roughly) ten pounds. Given the dimensions of my driveway, I was throwing around about 250 pounds over the course of a few hours. My aching back can vouch for me.

Here's what I've learned about shoveling: it's a pain in the butt. It makes you sore and tired and you can't really make a dent unless you have a few hours to spare. If you don't want to shovel, you have a few options:

1) A bigger, better shovel - My older snow shovel is nothing compared to my neighbor's. His has a weird curve that makes it easier on your back and shoulders. He paid a little more but he's done in half the time. 

2) A snowblower - I could theoretically get a snow blower and cut my workload by 90%. The problem there is that I don't get enough snow to justify the cost and I don't really have the room.

3) Outsource - I could hire guys to come shovel my driveway and walkway for me but that takes, you guessed it, more money.

Those are the options, least-costly to most-costly. I'm still weighing them out based on the winter we've been having, the amount of money I'm spending on ibuprofen and the room I have in my garage for more stuff that only gets used once or twice every year. I can only imagine how friends of mine who live in Wisconsin or Minnesota or Michigan are dealing with all this snow. Their cost-analysis spreadsheet looks a little different than mine because it's a problem they have to deal with a lot more frequently. 

One thing is clear to me: "do nothing" is out of the question. If I just decide to wait out the spring to melt the snow, everything will halt. We won't be able to drive to work or get our kid to her swim class. We won't be able to go to the store or invite people over to our home. We're stuck if I don't do something. I can't put the lives of everyone in my family on hold while I wait for the snow to melt.

When spring comes and the time is right, I'll make my move. But for now, I shovel. 

Want to know what else I learned about shoveling? It's a pretty good metaphor for the work we do in the credit union industry. Every day, people come to us looking for answers. We provide: 

  1. Information, so they can make informed decisions
  2. Enticement, so they know what we have to offer and see the value of same, and
  3. Services, so they can live their lives more fully with less hassle.

The tools are out there to provide all three. We can inform potential members, serve existing members and market more effectively to both. The tools exist and the methods exist. At DigitalMailer, we have clients that just need a "better shovel" - dependable technology that can handle small volume. Some clients opt for the "snowblower" - technology that can handle complicated tasks with ease and not much input. Others need manpower and consultation to get things done and to deal with the high volume of members. Different strokes for different folks, but they're all here because the small shovel wasn't moving the snow quickly and effectively.

The more members and potential members accumulate, the more we need to do something. We can do it ourselves with the tools we have but if the tools fall short, we need to either improve, upgrade or outsource. 

We can't afford to do nothing.

 

January 28, 2014

The State of Credit Unions in 2014, As Predicted by The "Crystal Ball" of Google

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by Ron Daly

Let's face it - Googling stuff is fun. It has been from the very beginning and it's still a hoot.

Sometimes, Google can show you the future. I decided to put Google's "crystal ball" capabilities to the test and see what 2014 had in store for the industry. I simply put

  • "In 2014, credit unions will *"
  • "In 2014, credit unions must *"
  • "In 2014, credit unions should *"

into the search bar and hit return. And voila! all the interesting tidbits about what the industry should focus on this year. Some highlights: 

"[Credit Unions] must focus on enhancing members’ cross-channel experiences, says Belinda Caillouet, chair of the CUNA Technology Council..."

"Charting Your Course Through 2014", creditunionsmagazine.com

Agreed. Members are leaning hard on technology and demanding more channels that work well with one another. That includes mobile apps, online banking and ATM/branch services that all play well together and stay up-to-date and easy-to-use.

"Financial marketers will be accountable for analyzing the real results of content marketing strategies in 2014. Because every channel ultimately affects all of the others, attribution modeling allows marketers to credit a specific ad or touch point along a sales funnel rather than just the last material viewed or clicked."

"Digital Marketing Trends for Banks and Credit Unions in 2014", TheFinancialBrand.com

Yep, right on the money. The technology we're using to sell to members is getting better and we can start making sense of data and offering products and services that make the most sense for each individual member.

“In the next 12 months, mobile will overtake online in terms of number of users. It already has more transactions."

"5 Mobile Trends to Watch in 2014", cutimes.com

I'll be interested to see the outcome of this one. Mobile's a big part of people's lives, but can credit unions rise to that challenge and create great mobile app experiences in the space of a year? A year, mind you, that's already down to eleven months as of Saturday of this week?

"In 2014, the trusted role of banks and credit unions as the collector of funds, provider of loans, processor of payments and advisor of financial relationships will continue to come under fire from non-traditional players including new financial organizations (neobanks), hardware providers, third party payment processors, and mobile app developers that merchants and consumers are using to chip away at the traditional financial services model."

"Top Ten Banking Trends for 2014", bai.org

More sharks in a still-pretty-small tank? This is the moment CUs have been waiting for — the moment to set themselves apart from the upstarts and prove they can be valued, trusted financial partners by offering sensible services and can't-be-beat member interactions.

"To experience loan growth in 2014, credit unions will need to originate significantly more consumer loans to offset the expected declines in mortgage originations."

"Marketing Overview and Data Report", catalyststrategic.org

I'm really curious about what kinds of loans credit unions will be promoting in place of mortgages (assuming they cut back on mortgage promotions, which some won't). Credit cards? Student loans? Where's the "heat" in lending in 2014?

“Looking ahead to 2014, credit unions can expect to see the CFPB expand its fair lending focus,” said Bundy. “The CFPB’s regulatory agenda unmistakably signals that fair lending will be a focal point of new rule making starting in 2014.”

"CUNA Mutual Group Anticipates Broader Regulatory Focus in 2014", cunamutual.com

"...The CFPB has the luxury in 2014 to move on to topics other than mortgages, such as overdraft, prepaid cards, Reg CC disclosures, and debt collection. To keep track of all of it, take advantage of various resources out there—besides NAFCU, and the CFPB, many law firms have compliance blogs and news alerts you can subscribe to for free. Knowledge is power, so grab on!"

"Credit union industry experts: What’s in store for 2014", cuinsight.com

I bundled those together for a reason: the CFPB will be stepping up its game in 2014. Credit unions will need to arm themselves with information, as mentioned in the second story. There are plenty of great resources out there, both free and paid.

Any other big predictions for this year? Leave them in the comments section.

January 02, 2014

Our Top Ten Posts of 2013

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by Ron Daly

With 2013 in the rear-view mirror, we wanted to take a look back at the year that was. There were plenty of stories that grabbed our readers' attention, from shakeups in leadership to advances in technology to new takes on the industry and where we're going.

Take a peek back at our top ten posts of 2013:

  1. Introvert Media - What "Private" Social Networks Tell Us About the Future of Online Sharing
  2. Watch out for the eStatement Police!
  3. Just One Presentation Taught Me Five Lessons
  4. eManners: What Does "Polite" Look Like Nowadays?
  5. Filson Calls for Cooperative NCUA
  6. Have You Ever Spent $1,000 on Candy?
  7. The Cooperative Trust Changes Hands - What Does That Mean for the Future?
  8. Why Didn't WE Think Of That?
  9. The Pocket Merger: Your Phone is Becoming Your Wallet. Will Your CU Be Prepared?
  10. Let's Cut Down the Theme Song and Get to the Bar.

We're always happy to have you here at the CU Soapbox. Stay tuned in 2014 - there's plenty more to come!

December 20, 2013

The Gifts You Give in Seconds are the Best Gifts of All

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by Ron Daly

Uh-oh, gang. I forgot to get a few gifts this year. Which is to say, all of them.

That's right, I took my own advice, skipped Black Friday, and didn't get a single present for anyone on my gift list. What on earth should I do now?!

I got it. I'll give them the Internet.

Well, no, not "the Internet". I'm just going to give my friends something digital instead of something physical. It's easier than ever to give someone a thoughtful gift that needs no wrapping, no exchanging and no batteries.

Let's start with...

• My Favorite TV Junkie: 

For the couch potato who has everything, here's a gift subscription to Netflix. Now they can watch TV all day long from any device or from the comfort of their living room.

• My Friend, The Frequent Flier:

I have friends that love to travel. Several airlines will let you buy miles for someone else. Even if you can't give them a full trip, you can take the sting out of their next outing by giving them a few thousand miles for a reasonable price.

• My Cousin, the Shop-aholic:

There are plenty of people, like my cousin, who thrill at the act of shopping more than the actual gifts on the other end. For her, an Amazon Gift Card that is applied automatically. She can shop til she drops, and in seconds.

• My Friend "Forgetful Frida"

Poor, poor Frida. She can't remember anything! That's why I treated her to Evernote Premium, a service that saves web pages, articles and images in a snap from your iPad, computer or phone. Hopefully she can use it to remember my gift.

• My neighbor, who's still not a credit union member

The poor guy...he just won't get with it! Fortunately, my credit union is offering a "refer a friend" program that gives me a bonus when he signs up. I'm adding a member to my credit union, getting $10 and helping a friend. It's a three-for-one!

• For Anyone, and For a Good Cause

This time of year, I think about our soldiers a lot. Even after they get home, they often need our help to recover, readjust and move forward. If you want to give a gift that will benefit the giver, the recipient, and a veteran, consider giving a gift to the Wounded Warrior Project. Use this form to give a gift in someone's name to this very worthy cause.

Phew! Now that my shopping's all taken care of, I can get back to my favorite holiday pastime: putting up my inflatable lawn ornaments and showing up my neighbors for our block's Christmas decoration content.

Merry Christmas from the CU Soapbox!

November 22, 2013

Have We Finally Had Enough of "Black Friday"?

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by Ron Daly

Thanksgiving? What's Thanksgiving? I scarcely remember.

The days of slaving over a hot stove to produce the perfect turkey and watching endless hours of football and falling asleep on the couch are gone. Now, it's all about sales.

Black Friday, that long-loved gem of the retail industry, is only a week away. Or is it actually less than a week away? Many stores are choosing to start their "Black Friday" on Thursday evening, so the deals are actually only six days out from now.

Why the bump-up? Because stores want to jump-start the frenzy that is the holiday shopping season, their busiest and most lucrative season of the year. Just like your local soft-rock station wants to start playing Christmas music earlier and earlier each year, stores are trying to get people frothing at the mouth over retail deals. I'd wager it won't be long before we have a "Black November" — an entire month of shopping and scrambling around stores as Halloween costumes get chucked out of major retail chains around October 15 and all the December Holiday decorations go up instead. What a nightmare. 

Maybe I'm not alone in my frustration with the ever-earlier holiday season. Nielsen reports that only 13% of shoppers are going to physical stores on Black Friday this year. There are conflicting reports from other sources, but this Time article corrects the confusion with a simple look at the numbers: while some 30-40% of all shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday (Black Thursday-into-Friday?), very few plan on doing it at a physical location. Most will be shopping online, from the warmth and comfort of home. 

They'll never even have to put down their turkey leg.

Plenty of Hustle, Not So Much Bustle

We've come to the age of "online-first" shopping. People are still snapping up those great deals and printing their coupons and getting the most for their money...they're just doing it from their living room. Why go get mobbed by a bunch of crazy people that are fighting over a toaster oven? Just order it and have it delivered. Amazon Prime pays for itself surprisingly quickly.

Retailers have the wrong idea, spreading the start-point of Black Friday over into Thursday. They should be making those hours smaller and tighter for physical shoppers and have in-store pickup for online shoppers. Now that would be handy - have a table where everything you ordered a few weeks before waits for you – already gift-wrapped, tagged, and ready to go. Then, if you're on your way out and you have an inkling, pick up some last-minute impulse items. That cuts down on labor-hours, upkeep, clean-up, parking frustrations and rowdy crowds.

Look at what stores like GameStop are doing with video game systems - pre-orders preferred and even rewarded with extras, yet the gaming nerds are still allowed to line up on the street. The online shoppers AND the physical shoppers get their just reward, without a lot of eye-gouging and body-blows. Better still, the store knows how many units to order in advance of the release of the product. Maybe that idea scales up easily, maybe it doesn't...but does ruining a bunch of people's Thanksgiving dinner really build excitement anymore?

People are more reliant than ever on the online channel to get things done. That goes for retailers and for credit unions. We can't just wish it was different and that people will like going to physical locations again. We have to meet demand where we find it.

And let me tell you, the only Friday event I care about after Thanksgiving is "Leftovers Day". Turkey sandwiches with stuffing and mashed potatoes, here I come.

October 29, 2013

Today's Not An Anniversary You Really Want to Celebrate.

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by Ron Daly

Torrential rain. Winds up to 115 mph. An estimated $68 billion in damages. Portions of the eastern seaboard still reeling.

It's hard to believe a year has already come and gone since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. It's not an anniversary you really want to celebrate but it's an important one to mark. It's a prime example of how credit unions are supposed to be rooted in their communities and how, as a community unto itself, credit unions reach out and help one another.

CUs help members

In the aftermath of the storm, stories came pouring in from New Jersey- and New York-area credit unions re-opening and powering through to help members. Some offered overdraft forgiveness, some offered low-rate loans for repairs; a brave and thoughtful few opened up their branches to those displaced by the storm, giving them a warm place to rest, recharge their portable electronics and get their finances in order for the displacement and for the recovery.

If there's a better example of "the credit union difference" than these community-based institutions offering the kindness and care that members need in a time of crisis, what might it be? Because this is the clearest indication to me of what makes credit unions special — a degree of true empathy. It's an empathy that applies to more than money; it applies to the human condition.

CUs help one another

In the wake of the destruction came the cleanup effort. Some issues were tackled quickly and with the kind of focus and calm needed to keep operations on the rails. Some issues have taken quite a long time to address, and some still go unresolved.

One good example of CUs lending themselves a hand? CUaid.coop, which sprang into action collecting donations from credit unions across the nation. The money got passed along to those credit unions that needed it the most. We started the rebuilding process almost immediately after the destruction took place. How many other industries get money going from company to company that quickly? How many other industries bother?

CUs could always do more

The Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that financial services is the least trusted industry worldwide. What can we do to counteract the skepticism and reticence in members and turn the "trust equation" back in our favor?

Stories like the ones above are a good starting place. Showing members that credit unions really do care about their safety and security goes a long way in building our credibility. But how do you really drive that home?

  1. Be Visible - Before, During, and After — If your service area is under threat, you need to be in communication with members throughout the process. When will branches close? Where should they go with concerns or questions? What should they do if they return home to extensive damage or, worse yet, outright destruction? While you're at it, reach out to disaster planning departments in your city or town and ask how you can contribute, volunteer and improve the conditions of those who get displaced or sheltered.

  2. Make Sure Issues are Well Documented — Did an ATM get destroyed in a tornado or flooded or burned up in a fire? Let members know. Did a branch need extensive repairs? Let members know. Do members that frequent one particular branch or area of service need aid and could that aid be provided by members in other locations? Let members know. Don't skirt the issue, don't "dummy up" - play straight, deal fair, do good.

    Recently,  the University of Michigan Health System encouraged doctors to admit to mistakes and bad calls. Surprisingly, the number malpractice suits went down. Why? Because people prefer a company, or a provider, that doesn't try to cover things up or fudge the facts. They want answers and clear communication. Give it to them.

  3.  Give Members the Tools They Need — Do your members know everything they need to know about direct deposit? If they don't, they might find themselves wanting when payday comes on the heels of a hurricane. Municipal CU learned that the hard way during Sandy and shared their insights. During a weather event, people might be lacking the resources they take for granted - mail stops being a priority, phone lines go down, the home computer might be done for due to electrical surges or fire or flood damage.

    But the chances are good that the members leaving their homes aren't leaving without a mobile device in-hand.

    Give members the tools they need most with your mobile offering. Check balances? That's a gimme. Transfer funds? Simple enough. Find branches and ATMs? Those tools are getting better all the time. Get copies of insurance policies, deeds, medical histories and wills? It's possible right this minute. If you're not offering these essential services, where is your operations budget going, exactly?

We hope that credit unions never have to deal with another "Hurricane Sandy". Unfortunately, we know they will. Here's hoping that they'll keep giving aid and comfort to the members that need it most. Here's hoping they'll keep looking out for each other and lending a hand in the spirit of cooperation and community building. Here's hoping that, when the crucial moment hits and it's time to be there for your members, you'll have given them all the information, attention, tools and time they need to get back on their feet. Here's hoping we can build more trust among our members and use that trust to turn them into lifelong members.

Here's hoping.

October 23, 2013

Just One Presentation Taught Me Five Lessons

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by Jimmy Marks

Recently, DigitalMailer sponsored the CU Water Cooler Symposium 2013. We went to Nashville to meet lots of cool people and see so many great presentations (I made one of my own, but I'm not bragging…there was a whole lot of great stuff on that stage).

The talk that really stuck with me? One that had nothing to do with credit unions or even with the finance industry...well, not the real finance industry, but a banker is involved.

The speaker was Tim Vandenberg, a teacher from Hesperia Unified School in Victorville, California. His talk? All about Monopoly. No, not a business monopoly - the game of Monopoly.

Tim Vandenberg - Monopoly Academy: Winning the “Game” of No Child Left Behind

Tim's talk was all about his use of Monopoly to teach math to 6th graders. His approach has turned dozens and dozens of kids from below-average learners (some of them counted on their fingers) into some of the highest-scoring students in the school, and even in his district. He's a passionate guy and his work speaks for itself. The night after his presentation, however, someone pondered aloud "What did that have to do with credit unions and finance?" The more I thought about it, the more profound Tim's talk became. I realized it wrapped up five lessons every credit union should consider.

  1. Regulation is tough, but it doesn't have to be a progress-killer - Tim developed his Monopoly-themed course as a way of challenging students and raising their math scores simultaneously. His school, like many in America, was left hurting with the implementation of "No Child Left Behind", an act that has done a lot of damage to American schools by emphasizing the importance of standardized tests instead of "real learning". Tim knew that the math scores would need to increase and that students would still need an intellectual challenge. His Monopoly/Math Camp did both.
     
  2. Mary Poppins was right - A "spoonful of sugar" helps the "medicine" go down. When I was a kid, I hated math. My teachers showed our class "School House Rock" to help us learn times tables and parts of speech. Songs and stories made it a lot easier to digest. Tim's approach has taught his students many hard-to-master math concepts, such as compound interest, principle, rent and real-estate. Gamification strikes again! And this time, to the betterment of students' test scores.
     
  3. Kids aren't dumb - Young people are often dismissed in the finance industry. Tim's students learn many important concepts quickly and can stack up against adults…one story Tim shared had a local bank teller come to him in tears, telling him his children were too fast with their math. Several of his students played exhibition matches with Monopoly Grand Champions (yes, there's a Monopoly Championship) and won against them. With proper instruction, kids can learn anything. So why aren't we doing more financial education at a younger age?
     
  4. "Never trust a smile" - Tim recounted a story in which he played the game with his students and one in particular called him out for taking advantage of a trade. "Never trust a smile," he told his student - a lesson that holds a lot of value, especially in finance. Sure, a friendly demeanor may put the consumer at ease, but if they ignore the terms they could get burned in the long run.
     
  5. Monopoly doesn't last forever - Apparently, there's a "proper way" to play Monopoly and an "improper way". The proper way takes about 90 minutes; the improper way takes all day, or even a full week. I suspect from my many years playing monopoly that I've never played "the proper way". 

That's five good lessons from one simple talk. Now, consider this - what would happen if you had attended and gleaned five good lessons from every single talk, of which there were thirteen? That would be sixty-five great lessons you could take with you, back to your credit union.

Why didn't you go again? And while we're at it, why aren't you already champing at the bit to go to CUWCS 2014 in Austin, Texas?