The Bankthink Behemoth will slowly digest your heart, soul, and uniqueness.

Beating the Bankthink Behemoth

Ever lying in wait for credit union adventurers, the horrible Bankthink Behemoth lures victims with the sweet siren call of pure profit and mindless, strictly-by-the-numbers management. If you fall into its clutches, the Bankthink Behemoth will slowly digest your credit union’s heart, soul, and uniqueness, leaving nothing but a cold, hard shriveled mini-bank.

It takes strong will, stout hearts, and powerful everyday core values to stare this Monster straight in the eye and steer clear. How do you ignore Bankthink and stay true to your credit union principles?

Check your defaults

Have you ever told someone you work for a credit union, and they replied “Oh, so you’re a banker?” That’s sort of the problem here; yes, from the consumer’s perspective credit unions mostly do the same things banks do, just for different reasons.  So the mental model or default is always “bank”.

If you work for a credit union, you have to be mindful of these mental defaults, and train your thinking around “credit union”. To keep Bankthink from creeping into every decision, you have to constantly question the default assumptions. Ask yourself “Would a bank do this? Why? How does this actually affect real live members?”

NSF fees are one example of classic Bankthink. With little effort or risk you get a great stream of profit, so everyone does it without really considering how it affects individuals. “CU-think” would be more along the lines of better understanding the negative impact of NSF fees on your members, and working to reduce the incidence of NSF fees through education, better account tracking tools, lower fees, and automatic overdraft protection for all members.

Be different

Differentiation is pure brand and marketing plutonium – a powerful catalyst for growth. You can’t be bigger than the big banks, you can’t always be cheaper, but you can always be Different. From the instant a prospective member first visits your website through the last year of their mortgage, make certain the experience is always special and different.

For example, take a look at a few megabank websites. Sterile, soulless, and excruciatingly corporate (And what’s with all the blue?). Make VERY sure your website looks nothing at all like this.

Be human

Credit unions own concepts like warmth, humanity, and caring – make sure everyone can feel and see the difference. It’s perfectly OK for a CU to be quirky or even a little corny. Have some fun; there are no NCUA regulations regarding ties, drab suits, and maintaining a quiet serious demeanor. You’re helping people buy cars and homes and build better lives; tap into that joy and achievement.

If you’re a CU decision-maker, don’t blindly follow the numbers; make sure the human costs and benefits are always a top priority. Leave a few columns in the spreadsheet for “heart” and “soul”.

Be small

If you’re a small CU, stop trying to ape the big players. Own your smallness and be happy being the little guy. Show members the advantages – they can talk to the CEO, and even get involved. There are real people who can help solve problems. And show members how you leverage technology and shared branching to make sure they still have all the conveniences they need.

Be local

One of the biggest untapped reservoirs of credit union differentiation is simply the fact that you’re local. You’re owned and managed locally, with no profit obligation to a parent company thousands of miles away. All your decision-making is right here. You understand your members and their struggles and triumphs better than anyone else.

Be wary

The Bankthink Behemoth can sneak up on you, but by focusing on living your authentic brand and connecting authentically to the friends and neighbors you serve, you’ll be able to keep this beast under control, and build a lasting brand.



What are the Marketing Monsters that go”bump” in the night at your credit union?

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Brian Wringer

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